Go big on breakfast, roll with later hunger pangs. An ideal eating schedule does not exist, but for those who want to optimise their metabolism and cardiovascular system, there are guidelines.
People are tied to their internal clocks more so than previously thought. Sunlight and darkness not only impact a person’s sleep cycle, but they also regulate metabolic hormones. This changes the way a person’s body responds to food. “A meal eaten in the morning will be metabolised faster than in the evening, regardless of the meal,” says Andreas Pfeiffer, a top German endocrinologist. “A healthy breakfast is basically good,” agrees Hans Hauner, a top nutritional doctor. “However, it is debatable whether breakfast must be the largest meal of the day. A person should take into account preference and individual eating patterns.” Following a pure metabolically based approach, the largest meals should be enjoyed in the morning and at noon. Dinner ought to be the smallest meal of the day. This way of eating would take advantage of the metabolism’s efficiency.
However, many workers have developed a different rhythm because they cannot prepare large meals for themselves during work. “For many people it is normal to have the big meal after work in the evenings,” Hauner says. “It would not make any sense to ban dinner. An eating pattern like that would not last.” Nutritionist Silke Lichtenstein also discourages radical approaches to food: “Someone who imposes a strict food ban after 6pm will start eating in advance at 5pm to make sure they are not hungry later.” “That would make no sense,” Lichtenstein says. Most experts agree that snacking can be a problem. “We’re getting to the point where people are eating eight to 10 times a day,” says Pfeiffer.
“By constantly supplying our body with food, the energy resources stored in our cells are not being consumed.” Studies have also shown that eating frequently, even if the amounts are smaller, results in an intake of more calories than the daily recommended amount. Incorrigible nibblers should at least take care to avoid eating anything after dinner, the nutritionists advise. The human body never evolved to cope with frequent servings or regular meals. Strict daily mealtimes are more of a cultural development. “Hunger phases are quite healthy as long as they do not cause malnutrition,” Pfeiffer says.
“Alternating between hunger and eating phases will support metabolic flexibility, which has a long-term positive impact on health.” “We should reject the idea that hunger needs to be satisfied immediately,” Lichtenstein adds. Instead of snacking on something unhealthy, people should think about enduring the hunger until they can treat themselves to something healthy and nutritious.