Many people find it impossible to fit three meals in their schedule – and should we even mention snacks? In fact, when was the last time you ate a proper breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one day? – and no, a chai latte to go isn’t a proper breakfast. Let’s dig into meal timing and how to optimize it for your goals.
Plan each meal and don’t let each meal plan you…that’s the goal! 😉
Meal planning and meal timing may matter more than what you first thought. In fact, that could be the sole reason you’re not getting anywhere with your fitness goals.
While it’s true that a packed schedule gets to the best of the best sometimes, spacing out your meals the right way should allow you to feel fuller and get in shape faster.
If you spend your days snacking and munching on whenever your heart pleases but then wonder why your muffin top is in a better shape than you, keep reading on to learn a few important things about meal planning and meal timing!
If you don’t already have your macros set up, get started with the Flexible Dieting Calculator!
Wait, isn’t meal timing a thing of the past now?
Meal timing isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be in the past – that’s true. It’s okay if you don’t chug down a bowl of oatmeal as soon as you open your eyes.
In fact, with the If It Fits Your Macros approach, plenty of people use intermittent fasting or space out their meals in only two or three larger meals during the day, completely skipping the snacks. Others spread it out and include snacks as well.
As you know by now, the rule is:
Everything works with the IIFYM approach, as long as it works well with you!
But here’s the kicker:
Even the craziest-looking meal schedules still include some sort of meal planning and meal timing.
That is if you want to reach your fitness goal faster AND better.
While eating after 8 PM may not be the biggest sin now in the dieting world, devouring bits of this and that throughout the day and not having clearly divided meals could be the deal breaker in the story – and not only for your looks but for your health as well.
Come on now – is eating too often really bad for me?
Yes, it may be.
The thing is that your body uses food as an energy source – once you eat something, your body breaks it down into sugars. Then, your blood sugar rises and the all-mighty insulin comes along to take it to your cells so they can use it as energy or store it.
When our friend Insulin jumps in, your blood sugar levels drop back to normal and the whole thing starts all over again the next time you eat something.
In the meantime, your pancreas – where insulin comes from – takes a well-deserved break.
But what happens when all you do is eat?
You got that right – your pancreas can’t rest appropriately because it keeps making more and more insulin to tackle the sugar in your blood… and this is where things get messy.
Insulin sensitivity at its finest!
There’s this thing called insulin sensitivity – it’s used to refer to how sensitive your cells are to insulin. A healthy person has normal levels of insulin in their blood because the cells are responding well to the normal level of insulin.
But a real problem arises when insulin de-sensitivity happens – cells become insulin resistant, meaning they can’t use the sugar from your blood!
When your cells are insulin resistant, your blood sugar levels rise.
The pancreas responds to this by sending even more insulin troops to help with the problem and you end up with an overall wreck in your body that can lead up to diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular problems, to name just a few.
That’s not good – what else can happen?
Well, apart from the obvious health issues that might appear right now or years down the line, not timing your meals can leave you with one apparent consequence – you being hungry!
And since humans aren’t really supposed to spend their lives hungry, your energy levels drop and your overall performance hits the bottom. Not much you’re willing to do when your stomach isn’t full, right?
On top of that, experiencing hunger frequently could make you more susceptible to stress – everyone knows not to mess with a hangry person.
I don’t want to be hangry – what can I do?
For starters, take a look at your schedule!
Really – and not only to write down meal times.
Unless you know your schedule really well, you won’t be able to make a meal plan for yourself – at least not one that will work in the long run.
The key step in every sustainable meal plan is that it has to be convenient enough so you’d be able to follow it. Even if you go on and write down that you’ll eat breakfast every day at 9 AM, would that be possible when you know your boss likes having meetings at that time every day?
Instead, look for times when you know you’d be able to follow through – if you know you have to attend a meeting every day at 9 AM, try your best to do some meal-prep the night before and eat it right before the meeting starts!
You should also look to include a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat in each meal. Having each of the three macronutrients will ensure you stay fueled, full and optimize digestion for any task you need to tackle.
That may work – but how many meals should I have?
Before you head out to do some meal planning, you may want to check out this article about macros over here – you may find it useful to learn a few tips and tricks about macronutrients before moving on with everything else.
We recommend spacing your meals 3 to 5 hours apart. We have found that to be most beneficial both for keeping you healthy and in great shape.
Now, you’re probably often running out of meal ideas to put in your plan. To help you even further on your quest to shaping the ideal meal plan for you, we have this formula to offer:
Divide the total macros by the number of meals to be eaten – that way, not only you’ll find it super-easy to keep track of everything but you’ll also know what to include in each meal so you’re not lacking anything.
Still no ideas for your next lunch? Here’s another relevant post to make sure you’re not lacking any macros.
But I eat my lunch before it’s lunchtime!
And then you have to go on and buy lunch again, huh?
We have a solution for that as well but no, it still doesn’t include snacking on M&M’s.
If you know you get hungry between meals – and you can’t keep your hands off your coworker’s Snickers – there’s one simple thing you can do: eat food with a bigger volume!
That way, you’ll be feeling fuller for longer periods of time – and your fiber intake will be right on track.
Give it a go to this post over here that will teach you a thing or two about food volume and fibers.
Remember, an ideal meal plan isn’t supposed to be a compromise between looking good and starving. It’s all about being healthy, eating properly, and looking – and feeling! – great!
Do you think we’ve missed out on any awesome tips when it comes to meal planning & meal timing? Hit us up in the comments and let us know – we’d be happy to hear back from you!