When Should I Eat?
A lot of this blog will be similar to Meal Timing for Toning
Each one of the following questions is important to think about when preparing your healthy meals and determining your meal timing.
- What is your current schedule?
When do you wake up? What is your work schedule like? When do you exercise? When do you go to sleep?
- What is your current exercise regimen?
Do you currently exercise? If so, how many days a week? What time during the day? For how long and at what intensity do you exercise?
- What are your GOALS?
Are you trying to clean out your arteries, lower cholesterol, and lower your blood pressure? Are you trying to lose or maintain weight? Are you trying to gain weight/ lean muscle?
If you do not know the answers to the above questions, stop reading now, answer them as well as you can, and then continue reading the rest of the information.
Below is an example of a meal plan for someone who wants to gain lean muscle…
Oscar is 33, works a shift job, and is struggling to put on some extra muscle. He eats three meals a day when he isn’t working, but eats only one to two meals on the job and it is typically fast food or something unhealthy.
- On workdays, wakes up at 8am, works from noon to midnight, and hits the pillow the second he gets home.
- On off days, wakes up at 8am and goes to sleep around 10:30pm.
- Exercises 5 times a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday) at 9am
- His goals are to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle.
Meal Timing for Oscar:
- Immediately upon rising – morning cleanser
- 45 minutes before exercise – pre workout smoothie
- Immediately following workout – post workout smoothie
- 30 minutes after smoothie – breakfast
- 4-6 hours after breakfast – prepped lunch from home
- 4-6 hours after lunch – prepped dinner from home
- No food until breakfast the next day
Note about having Oscar also follow the 12-hour of no digestion at night:
One of the only times that our bodies produce natural growth hormone happens during the first two stages of uninterrupted sleep at night (Van Cauter) (Redwine). The more energy the body spends on late night digestion, the less energy it will put towards muscle recovery and regeneration of the body. Although taking a late night protein shake may help Oscar gain weight, it is not simultaneously optimal for overall health and healthy eating. For more on fasting, check out our blog, Healthy Eating – Intermittent Fasting.
What nutrients are included in these meals are VERY important and should be mostly plant-based nutrition, but that won’t be discussed here.
There are several other examples that could be given and almost everyone will have a slight variation from the next person. What is important is that you establish a routine that is founded in eating when and what is good for you.
In the end, the exact timing of your meals is most important when timing your exercises and your sleep. You want your body to optimize the nutrients it has in it, to recover the best and fastest it can, and to continually be fueled with nutrient dense foods.
Van Cauter, Eve, Rachel Leproult, and Laurence Plat. “Age-related changes in slow wave sleep and REM sleep and relationship with growth hormone and cortisol levels in healthy men.” Jama 284, no. 7 (2000): 861-868.
Redwine, Laura, Richard L. Hauger, J. Christian Gillin, and Michael Irwin. “Effects of Sleep and Sleep Deprivation on Interleukin-6, Growth Hormone, Cortisol, and Melatonin Levels in Humans 1.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 85, no. 10 (2000): 3597-3603.