“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day…”
“Don’t eat before bed, or you’ll have nightmares…”
There is a great deal of folklore regarding what, and when, we should eat. For many people, however, mealtimes are dictated not by hunger or habit, but by when they can find the time to eat. Long gone is the fabled ‘lunch hour’ – for most professions, workers are lucky to have 30 minutes for lunch. Even so, many feel pressure to eat at their desk to avoid being singled out as the office ‘loafer’.
Trying to keep up in the daily rat race causes many to forgo lunch altogether – perhaps they consume two larger meals rather than three, or perhaps they choose to ‘graze’ on snacks over the course of the day. But what does this mean for our food ‘culture’ – are we abandoning the ‘three square meals a day’ concept? What does ‘science’ have to say on this important issue?
Considerable research has been done to evaluate the impact of meal timing on weight gain (or loss) in humans. I’ll start by saying that in today’s culture, the majority of adults are sleep deprived. Compared to Americans in the 1950’s and 60’s, working adults today get 1.5 hours less sleep per night, with an average sleep duration of just over 6 hours. Now, it stands to reason that if you are awake for more hours each day, then you might be inclined to eat more each day as well. The proof can be found in America’s rapidly expanding collective waistline.
However, science may have an answer for us. Arguably, the specific time at which you eat your meals is less important than the window of time during which you eat. If you feel hungry in the morning, by all means, eat a hearty breakfast – just don’t end the day in the same way you started it. That is, if you start eating earlier in the day, you should stop eating earlier in the day, vice-versa.
Myself, I prefer to eat a heavier meal at night, and lighter meals during the day. That pattern of meals simply fits my current lifestyle. The hard part is figuring out what works best for you. Just know that there is no one right way – the right way is the one that works for you.