by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
There always seems to be a back and forth when it comes to what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to weight loss. The term “bro-science” gets tossed around quite a bit when people start promoting benefits that don’t seem to have any real science or research that backs it up. Meal timing comes up quite often, and there are two main camps and ways of thinking.
If you were to draw a line in the sand, there would be people on the side of utilizing meal timing as a weight loss hack, and then you’d have another group on the other side of the line that say it’s a bunch of nonsense.
Well, in this article, we are going to look at exactly why you want to pay more attention to meal timing and how it can be a useful weight loss hack.
Meal Timing Explained
For the sake of this article, I’m not going to tell you an exact time you need to eat. For instance, I’m not going to say your meals should be at 8am, 10:30am, 1pm, etc. Instead, you get to fit the meals around your schedule and how your day is set up since not everyone wakes up at the same time, etc.
Sure, some people argue that the only thing that matters at the end of the day is that they hit their daily caloric intake, and it’s all just a matter of calories in and calories out. And that’s absolutely correct. But if you are constantly hungry throughout the day and find yourself snacking on junk to feel satiated, you’re more likely to overconsume and put yourself in a caloric surplus, right? I think we can all agree that to be true.
So, by implementing meal timing, you can better control your hunger and hunger pangs so that you can more easily stick to your nutrition plan. Let me explain further.
If you were to eat every 2.5 hours (or three hours if the number works for you and you don’t find yourself hungry), you cut your chances of feeling hungry throughout the day. In fact, you may even notice that you need to eat less food at each meal just so that you can fit in your next meal 2.5 hours later without being completely stuffed.
Now, when I say to eat every 2.5 hours, I’m not telling you to eat full, large meals at each sitting. Smaller meals are ideal, or consuming a few regular meals with smaller snacks implemented in-between.
For instance, a small meal that could fit between your normal meals could be something as simple as an apple with some walnuts. Even something as quick and easy as a protein bar could fit between meals very easily. The key is to eat something that contains protein at every meal, spread out in 2.5-hour intervals.
Next, let’s look at a few benefits that you can experience by implementing meal timing and how this can be a highly successful weight loss hack.
The Benefits of Meal Timing
Below, you will find a list that explains some of the various reasons why meal timing may be a great weight loss hack for you. Understand the concepts found below and determine if meal timing is something you want to implement into your weight loss strategy.
1. You Won’t Snack as Often
When you think about the times throughout the day where you are hungry and looking for a snack tends to be smack dab in the middle of when your meals would be, right? Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, etc. This is common, and therefore by meal timing your nutrition in 2.5-hour increments, you have a better ability to reduce the likelihood of cravings throughout the day.
If weight loss is your goal, the last thing you want is to experience intense hunger. If you’re at work and this takes place, where do you head? The vending machine, right? How much of what’s in a vending machine aligns with your weight loss goals? Next to nothing. You can skip the vending machine and the need for unhealthy snacking throughout the day if you pay more attention to meal timing and how you spread out your meals.
2. You’ll Have More Stable Energy Levels
Have you ever suffered from an afternoon lull where you have no energy? Maybe it’s as you’re leaving work and getting ready to hit the gym, and you find yourself lacking energy. Most people end up grabbing their pre-workout to fit the bill, and while there’s nothing wrong with taking a pre-workout (they have many benefits), most are looking primarily for the boost in energy levels. There’s an easier way to maintain your energy levels.
If you were to keep your meals consistent throughout the day, you wouldn’t suffer from the ups and downs in energy as your body would have a constant supply of energy to pull from. Consuming carbohydrates, especially around workouts, are incredibly beneficial.
3. You Can Better Differentiate the Feeling of Thirst Versus Hunger
One thing that many people get confused with is the sensation of thirst versus hunger. When the goal is weight loss, it’s easy to think you’re hungry when what’s really going on is that your body is telling you that it’s thirsty. This really doesn’t become a problem if you’re properly hydrating throughout the day as well as implementing meal timing into your nutrition plan.
What I recommend, even if you feel that you’re hungry (it doesn’t matter if you’re bulking or trying to lose weight), when you feel that sensation, first drink a glass of water. If you still have the sensation after 15-20 minutes, it’s truly hunger. Unfortunately, what many people think is hunger is that your body is craving water, and instead, you eat something when you don’t need the calories, which can lead to a caloric surplus by the end of the day.
This is yet another reason why it is beneficial to implement meal timing, and when your goal is weight loss, try to eat every 2.5-3 hours.