Why Are Mealtime Routines Important?
Have you heard the term Circadian Rhythm before?
Our circadian rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock in our brain that regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness by responding to light changes in our environment. Most people, if they've heard of this, associate it with sleep alone. However, it's much more than our sleep cycle that this rhythm is in tune with.
Just like your body needs a sleep schedule, it also needs a feed schedule. I know that sounds more animalistic than anything. Feeding your body at the same time everyday has 3 benefits.
#1 Prompts Digestion
When you eat at the same times everyday your body gets into a cycle, it starts to expect food which in turn gets your digestive juices flowing. Have you ever looked at a lemon & salivated? Or even a bag of Takis? That's what happens internally when you have a set schedule for your body to eat. The juices start to expect the food, which helps you digest foods quicker, bloat less, and feel more energized. Often times after we eat our energy levels can fall since the body needs energy to breakdown foods. However, if your digestive system is in top shape you can skip that sleepy feeling.
#2 Don't Disrupt Your Sleep
If you eat a meal before going to bed your body needs to exert energy while you're sleeping to digest that food. When you're sleeping your body is regenerating cells, healing muscles from workouts or daily use. The brain is also cleansing. In fact, the cerebrospinal fluid is a clear fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. It circulates in the meninges, or the casing, that surrounds the brain. Research has suggested that one of the jobs of cerebrospinal fluid is to cleanse the brain of toxic proteins during sleep. Not to mention memory function and the brains attempt to learn new functions, as well as dream!
So, you see there's a lot going on at night while we sleep. If you give your body food to digest after dark, your body has to prioritize that over all the other essential tasks it has to get done as well. Think of it as an employee that the boss keeps giving tasks too, some of those tasks will be done poorly due to lack of time, and a high work load.
Next time you want to eat after dark, just stay up longer as well. If you stay up longer and give your body time to digest, when you do get to bed that food will already be broken down & you won't overload the body.
#3 Control Weight Gain or Loss
Your metabolism is regulated by many hormones, enzymes, and transport systems. The circadian rhythm effectively modulates their expression, secretion, and/or activation throughout the day. In fact, changes in the circadian clock are associated with temporal alterations in feeding behavior and increased weight gain. So, simply going from day shift to night shift at work shift can increase your risk for obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases. This is all the result of unusual eating times and disruption of circadian rhythm. That's why it's so important to know and to keep & stick to a schedule. Also, meal times are important due to inactivity. You don't want to eat your heaviest meal at night because thats usually when most people are the least active. I recommend making your lunch the heaviest meal of the day.