Is there a best time to eat? If so, what is it? This post will give you the final answer to these questions!
The Ideal Time To Eat
The ideal time to eat is when, not shockingly, you're hungry! Usually, I like to say eat when you aren't overly hungry. When we eat at a time that we're RAVENOUS we're likely to wind up eating more than makes our body feel good. Why? Because by that point we are so hungry we just want to get anything and everything into our bodies. If you eat before that ravenous point you're more likely to be able to listen to your body and stop when you're feeling comfortably full. I.e. No food coma!
Using The Hunger Scale For The Best Time To Eat
I like to use the hunger scale when teaching this to the girlfriends in The SociEATy (the no food rules membership program). You can snag a copy of the hunger scale in my free e-book, The Ultimate 5 Step Guide To Food Freedom. I'd recommend eating when you're at about a 3-4 on the scale. By 2, you're probably ravenous!
Should I Only Eat When Hungry?
In short, NO. Here's the deal: there are times when just using the hunger scale to guide your hunger WON'T work! Here are some of those examples:
Eating On A Schedule
Say you're at work and you have designated break times. If you aren't at a 3-4 on the hunger scale, should you eat? My answer is typically yes. I always say think forward to the next time you'd be able to eat. Would you be ravenous by that point? To prevent this, I'd say eat your lunch even if you're not totally ready for it hunger-wise. This is called "practical hunger".
Eating For Pleasure
If you're at a birthday party and there is cake... it's okay to eat it even if you aren't hungry! If someone offers you a cookie that looks delicious... it's okay to eat it even if you aren't hungry!
We eat for so many other reasons beyond just physical hunger. Some emotional eating is actually HEALTHY. Yup, I said it. It's normal! So don't beat yourself up for eating a cookie out of sheer pleasure, or going for an ice cream run after a dinner date even though you're satisfied. If you're feeling guilty for doing this be sure to take a peek at this blog post all on how to stop feeling guilty after eating.
How Late Is Too Late To Eat?
Guys... it's never too late to eat. The health impact of nighttime eating and snacking isn't negative. If you're hungry at night I would recommend honoring that hunger. If you ignore it? You're likely to wake up at that ravenous state and over eat. This is using that practical hunger!
Now, if you're always eating dinner late at night right before bed it might have an impact on your sleep and circadian rhythm. Which then may have an effect on your metabolism. But, really, I think the biggest thing is to prevent that ravenous state and develop an eating pattern that allows you to fuel your body AND get a good nights sleep.
What Is The Best Time To Eat Breakfast?
Again, same thing goes here. You want to eat in a way that prevents you from getting to the extremes of the hunger scale. If you're hungry right when you wake up- EAT! Now, one important thing to note is that I do think that you should eat something in the morning, even if you aren't hungry, within a few hours of waking up. This helps your body to start giving you hunger cues throughout the day, so that you can actually use the hunger scale. This is that practical hunger at play again. I do have another post on how to get hunger cues, so be sure to check that out!
The Best Times To Eat
At the end of the day, the best times to eat are going to be different for every single person. And they can change from day to day! Don't get too caught up in all of the trendy food rule diets, like intermittent fasting, that tell you only to eat at certain times. Intermittent fasting is not currently a recommended treatment, per the Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics... A.K.A. the nutrition experts!
When To Eat Carbs Or Specific Foods/Macros
I don't recommend anyone get caught up in when to eat specific macros or foods, like carbs, fruit, etc. I always say "focus on how you feel". This will help guide your eating choices. You don't need to listen to food rules like "don't eat carbs later in the day" or "only eat fruit in the morning". Our bodies DO need carbs all day long- their our preferred fuel source! Listen to your body for the amounts to eat. What makes you feel good? When we listen to our bodies, amazing things happen! No food rules needed.
So, you do you. Eat when you're hungry. Eat when something looks good. There are NO FOOD RULES! Can I get an AMEN?!
Leave a comment below with your thoughts on this post and if you've ever tried intermittent fasting. Would love to hear your experience!
Happy eating, friends!
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