Meal Timing: Does It Matter When You Eat?

Meal Timing: Does It Matter When You Eat?


Meals and snacking patterns have changed over the past 40 years. You have undoubtedly noticed that many of us are eating fewer calories from meals and more calories from snacks. As a result, I get questions from both athletes and non-athletes alike about how to best fuel their bodies: Should I stop eating after 8:00 pm? Which is better: to eat 3 or 6 meals a day? Does it really matter if I skip breakfast? Because meals can be a central part of our social life—and busy training schedules can contribute to chaotic eating patterns—many athletes disregard the fact that food is more than just fuel. When (and what) you eat impacts your future health (and today’s performance). Continue Reading

True or False: Having dessert with breakfast can help you lose weight?

True or False: Having dessert with breakfast can help you lose weight?

Believe it or not, the answer can be true – at least, according to research with about 200 healthy (non-diabetic) people with excess body fat. The study compared half the subjects, who had a 300-calorie high protein breakfast (egg whites, tuna, cheese, milk), with a second group who ate the same breakfast but followed it with 300 calories of dessert (cake, cookies, chocolates).

The total calories per day were limited to 1,600 for men and 1,400 for the women — but divided into different sized meals. That is, one group of women ate 300 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 600 for dinner, while the other group ate 600 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 300 for dinner.

Four months later, both groups had lost about 30 pounds per person. But in the next four months, when the subjects were in the “maintenance phase” of the study, the 300-calorie-breakfast group regained 22 pounds, while the dessert-with-breakfast group continued to lose, on average, another 15 pounds

The dessert-eaters reported they were less hungry throughout the day. Plus they reported they were better able to resist sweet temptations later in the afternoon. They didn’t crave sweets because they had already satisfied their sweet tooth.

So what does this mean for you, a hungry athlete? It does not mean you should stuff your face with donuts and Danish pastries at breakfast-time! Trans fat and excess junk food is not conducive to optimal health. But it does mean, if you enjoy a sweet treat, you can balance it into your front-of-the-day food plan, accompanying it with a meal balanced with protein and other quality foods. This could offer you weight management benefits over succumbing to an (out-of-control) sweet-treat at night.

Makes sense to me, given the brain has limited energy to make wise food decisions. By the end of the day, low energy can easily overpower your best intentions to eat, let’s say, only one or two cookies …Give it a try?

Should I eat before a morning run?

Should I eat before a morning run?

I run at 5:30 in the morning and generally don’t eat anything. I’ve read that I shouldn’t run on empty. If there were just one food to eat—easily digestible—which one would you recommend? Continue Reading

The Athlete’s Omelet: Not for breakfast only!

Given that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, your chances of eating breakfast improve when you plan a meal that is both yummy and offers nutrients that will help you perform well.  Continue Reading

What to eat Boston Marathon morning?

Because the Boston Marathon starts between 10:30 and 11:30, fueling can be a bit tricky. Here are a few thoughts to organize your pre-marathon eating.

On Marathon Morning, be sure to eat two breakfasts…one at home about 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. and one about 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., as tolerated. You’ll likely have to wake up at early o’thirty in order to get out Hopkinton pre-race, You probably will have nervously tossed and turned all night (burning calories), so you’ll want to eat Breakfast #1 at 6:00 a.m. to replenish those calories. Then, carry easy-to-digest food with you for the pre-marathon Breakfast #2. This food helps maintain your normal blood sugar level, which helps your brain function clearly. If you fail to eat enough, your blood sugar will drop and you’ll suffer needless fatigue.

Some popular breakfasts include bagel with peanut butter, two energy bars and a banana, oatmeal with raisins, and poached eggs on toast. Popular items for Breakfast #2 include energy bars, bananas, bagels (plain or with peanut butter), and granola bars.

By eating about 400 to 600+ calories, as tolerated, of tried-and-true training food at Breakfast #1 and then 100 to 300 calories, as tolerated, within an hour or two before the race, you’ll be better fueled for the 26.2 mile adventure. If you will be too nervous and anxious to eat on Marathon Morning, be sure to eat extra calories before you go to bed on Sunday night.

Fuel well, run well, and enjoy the day!

Resource: Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions

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