Meal Timing: Does it Really Matter?

I'm sure you've heard the old "golden rules to weight loss" regarding meal timing, but does any of that really matter?  Does meal timing really effect your health and/or physique?

The short and simple answer: no, it doesn't. Your body doesn't know what time it is and it will not store fat and/or lose fat depending on the time of day.

Rule #1 - Don't Eat after X Time

6pm, 7pm, 8pm etc. Apparently eating after any of these times and your body will suddenly store everything you eat as fat! Crazy right? Yes, it is..

The logic: the later you eat, the less chance your body has to burn off those calories as you will likely be going to sleep soon.

Why it doesn't work: the body does not stop working when you go to sleep! It is still churnin' and burnin' those calories away. Think about it: if you have an apple at 8 am vs. 8 pm, is the apple eaten at 8 pm suddenly going to make you fat?

Why it may work: by refraining from eating after a certain time, you may consume less calories. However, it is this caloric deficit that really causes weight loss, not the time of day you ate.

Rule #2 - Eat 6 Small Meals Per Day to Lose Weight

The logic: eating smaller meals throughout the day will "rev up" your metabolism and you into "fat burning mode". Your body will be forced to burn more calories as it has to digest food more often.

Why it doesn't work: Your metabolism cannot really be "revved up". And while eating more throughout the day will cause your body to digest food more often, if the same amount of food is being consumed from 6 meals as it was from 3 meals, your body is still working just as hard. 

Why it may work: eating smaller meals every couple of hours may help you feel more satisfied. Eating frequently may also help keep sugar levels more stable. However, if you are still consuming the same amount of calories between 6 meals as you were from 3 meals, you're weight will stay the same as well.

Rule #3 - You Must Eat Breakfast Immediately Upon Waking Up

This also pertains to eating immediately after working out.

The logic: after fasting through the night, your body is starved for energy. By eating as soon as you wake up, you "kickstart" metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.

Why it doesn't work: your body is not "starved" after a full night's sleep. Your body is very efficient and will continue working regardless of when you ate breakfast. In fact, if you aren't hungry in the morning, skipping breakfast can save you some extra calories for your lunch or dinner later in the day.

Why it may work: if you are a person that is STARVING by lunch time from skipping breakfast, eating as soon as you wake up is probably a good idea. You will be less likely to go overboard when lunch time comes around and able to make smarter choices. 

The bottom line for ALL of these rules: weight loss is determined by calories in vs. calories out. These rules may help you stick to your diet, but they are not set in stone. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full and enjoy life without so many silly rules!