Even though I’m in my 60s, I can still hear my mother telling me, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
And she was right. That’s why I always start my day off with some hearty protein.
Bacon and eggs for the win!
But according to the latest research out of the world-renowned Salk Institute, you’ve got to time your breakfast just right… and stick to an eating schedule that works with your body’s natural “clock” for the rest of the day.
That’s right: WHAT you eat for breakfast is just as important as WHEN you eat it!
And the same goes for the rest of your meals.
Get this right, and you’ll digest your food better… you’ll have more energy… and your sleep will improve.
Get it wrong… and you may confuse your body and brain!
For his new book, The Circadian Code, researcher and professor Satchin Panda looked through scores of studies to determine how our bodies best process food -- and a lot of what he found can be filed under just plain ol’ common sense.
Early in the morning when we first wake up, our digestive enzymes are at their peak. Our bodies process everything we eat more quickly and efficiently.
That’s why you never want to skip breakfast… and miss out on that start-of-the-day digestive powerhouse happening in your gut!
As the day progresses, those enzymes gradually peter out. Insulin levels, for instance, naturally decrease throughout the day (provided that you don’t indulge in a sugar bomb).
So, eating your biggest meal early… and tapering down as the day progresses… lets your body make the most efficient use of your food. Eating later means you won’t absorb as many nutrients, and you’re more likely to wind up converting food into fat.
But eating early goes beyond efficiency.
You see, eating is an important signal for your body’s internal clock – your circadian rhythm.
Up until the invention of the lightbulb, all diurnal (a.k.a. daytime) creatures ate their meals when it was light out. That includes us humans (and our caveman ancestors).
Once it gets dark, your “body clock” starts telling you that it’s time for bed – for instance, producing the hormone melatonin to make you feel sleepy (and help you stay asleep once you drift off).
But when you eat on the later side – especially after nightfall – you’re contradicting those natural signals and making your body continue to work when it’s getting ready to shut down for the night.
Imagine being in a constant state of jet lag! It’s like your brain’s chemicals are saying you’re in the U.S. while your digestive system is saying it’s in China.
That sort of confusion wreaks havoc with your body – especially if it’s an ongoing habit.
So, when SHOULD you eat? Here are three mealtime tricks to make your watch sync up with the clock inside your body:
1. Eat within an hour of waking up and make breakfast the biggest meal of the day.
2. Throughout the day, make each meal a little smaller than the last.
3. Try to have your last meal – the smallest of the day -- around sunset.
No matter where you live, that means your mealtimes will change depending on when the sun rises and sets. Do your best to stick with the routine, even on those short winter days when it’s dark by late afternoon!
And whatever you do, avoid that late-night snack. Anything you eat within two hours of bedtime creates needless circadian confusion.
That goes double if it’s a sugary dessert-type treat, which would spike your blood sugar at the exact WRONG time of day.