5 Meal timing myths

Sven Nicholson

I often hear and see people ‘running’ to their protein shake the moment they finish their workout. ‘I need to get immediately protein inside me before the anabolic window closes!’ is what they often say. And others try to eat every 3 hours to ‘keep the metabolism working’. But is this really true? Are their any benefits on timing your meals properly and can this have a positive impact on your diet and goals or is this one big myth? Let’s find out in today’s blog!


Let’s start from the beginning, what is meal timing?

It is simple and complicated, simply said meal timing is eating at certain times and moments to receive the optimum benefits of the consumed foods. However, it soon gets complicated because you will have to look at each food, what it contains, how quickly it digests and what the digestive system does with the consumed foods. When you take a protein shake, does it really go immediately to your muscles or are there other systems involved?

To prevent this blog from being a book, I have listed 5 most common assumptions regarding meal timing and backed them up with research or busted the myth.

‘Take a protein shake immediately after a workout.’

This is the most common assumption. Many years ago, bodybuilders started talking about the anabolic window. This is a period, usually 30 min to 60 min after the workout when your body needs to get protein in order to start the building process, also known as muscle protein synthesis. Most people see it is a window and as soon as the 60 minutes post workout are up, this window closes, and you have wasted your whole workout because you did not get into this muscle building state. However, this is not completely true. Yes, after a workout it is wise to replenish nutrients and give your body protein to recover muscle tissue. BUT, research has shown that resistance training leads to a long period of increased muscle protein synthesis which could last for a maximum of 48 hours. The synthesis does gradually reduce and therefor it is better to consume protein after resistance exercises sooner rather than later, but you definitely do not miss a window after 60 minutes! So, calm down, take a breath and a shower because you probably need one and then make yourself a protein shake! For example the Whey protein shakes from Muscle Zone with new flavours!

We actually have two new flavors - Milky Blueberry and Pistachio White Choc!
We actually have two new flavors - Milky Blueberry and Pistachio White Choc!

‘Eat every 3 hours to maintain or even speed up your metabolism.’

A few years ago, research suggested that eating smaller meals throughout the day could speed up your metabolism and therefore lose weight. This started the trend that people think they should eat every 2 to 3 hours. However, more recent research has showed that what and how much you eat, far more important is than how often you eat. Consuming 3 big meals of 600 kcal each or 6 meals of 300 kcal each does not change the way you lose or gain weight. It is far more important to eat wholesome, healthy and nutritious foods and not overeat. Multiple smaller meals throughout the day could help you from overeating, but so could eating 3 big meals, it all comes down to personal preference and eating the right foods.

‘Do not eat carbs after 18:00 PM to lose weight.’

It is believed that eliminating carbs after 6pm will increase weight loss, however it is not the time that dictates the weight loss. When you have reached your daily caloric intake, and on top of that you start eating after 6pm, you will gain weight. But if you have not eaten enough calories throughout the day and you have meal including carbs after 6pm, you have nothing to be afraid of.

Just like the previous assumption, timing does not affect weight loss. As long as you stay in a caloric deficit, which means your intake of calories is lower than your expenditure of calories, you should be losing weight. However, you do have to keep in mind that it is far more important to eat healthy foods. Food with high amounts of carbohydrates tend to spike up your insulin levels and may cause a sugar rush which could give you difficulties trying to sleep. And not getting enough sleep could cause weight gain. But regarding carbs after 6pm, there is no perfect time to eat or not eat food as long as you eat healthy foods and listen to your own body.

‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.’

This is an interesting one because there is a lot of controversy. People who follow intermittent fasting programs will say breakfast is worthless, were as others are certain skipping breakfast is the last thing you want to do. Previously, I have written a blog aimed specifically at breakfast. I will state some of the highlights, but you might as well check out that blogpost too while you are here!

It is believed that skipping breakfast leads to overeating on your first meal of the day due to your hunger levels being higher, however research has shown that people who skip breakfast, actually consume about 260kcal less per day than people you do not skip breakfast!

Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that everybody should be skipping breakfast. For children breakfast is very important to maintain energy and growth. Also, consuming some foods within the first hour of waking up will increase blood sugar levels which are needed to activate your muscles and brain. This will improve concentration, memory, energy levels and prevents you from feeling tired and lazy.

As you can see, pros and cons for eating breakfast, however, the most important part of deciding is how you feel when you skip or eat breakfast. Everybody is different and has different preferences, only you can tell what makes you feel best. Track your foods and see what works for you!

‘To get the best results, you have to eat at the right time.’

There is some truth behind this statement, but there are many other things which affect the best results. To grasp the full meaning of getting the best results from proper nutrition I would like to show you this hierarchy which I came across over. This hierarchy shows the importance of nutrition in a certain order. I have given this the order I personally think is most important to least important.

  1. Most importantly, you have to look at how much you are eating, count your macros!
  2. Once you eat the right amounts, you look at what you are eating, can you eat more wholesome and healthier foods and change unhealthy foods into healthy ones.
  3. After eating the right amount and the right kinds of food, you can start looking at why you are eating these foods. Are you simply bored, emotional, stressed, etc.?
  4. Now it is important to look at how are you eating? Are you eating in front of the TV or are you eating slowly and mindfully?
  5. Once all these 4 steps are structurally in place, you can start thinking about timing your foods properly to get even better results. But without the first 4 steps, meal timing will be useless.

And there you have it, 5 myths busted! Do you agree or do you still believe in these myths? Let us know in the comments. And if you have any suggestion for future blogs, don’t hesitate to let us know as well!

Written by Sven Nicholson | Online Personal Trainer @ www.healthychanges-pt.com

Sources used

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008813/

https://www.livestrong.com/article/502854-will-not-eating-carbohydrates-after-6-p-m-help-with-weight-loss/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrient-timing

 

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