Just switching when you eat can make you healthier, happier, and more rested. Timing your meals keeps your clock genes ticking along merrily and stimulates natural melatonin production. The research presented by Dr. Hana Kahleova at the Plant-Based Prevention of Disease Conference convinced me to do something I never thought I’d do voluntarily: walk two miles before breakfast. I’ve even mostly given up snacks!
By simply timing your meals, you can reset the clock genes found in every cell of your body. These genes help control your daily rhythm of alertness and sleep.
Your body will make more melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. Melatonin also can reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, boost your immune system, and help you stay younger. Melatonin even stimulates your brown fat, which is a good thing. Brown fat burns energy and creates heat, helping you keep off unwanted pounds.
Eat Two or Three Times a Day
Our bodies naturally produce the most melatonin between the time the sun goes down and seven in the morning. Therefore, Dr. Kahleova suggests that we:
- Get up by 7 a.m.
- Exercise briskly, outside in the sunshine and fresh air if possible
- Eat a large, high-carb breakfast
- Eat a medium lunch
- Optionally, eat a small, early dinner
- Go to bed early but at least two hours after dinner
Skip the snacks, which actually make you hungrier. If you drink beverages with calories, from lattes to wine, have them with a meal.
Do eat breakfast every day to stay leaner, reduce your risk of diabetes, and keep your insulin levels under control. Skipping breakfast and snacking together almost doubles your risk of diabetes.
If you aren’t hungry for breakfast, ask yourself what you had for dinner–and after dinner–and after the night before. Waking up slightly hungry and then getting some exercise will whet your appetite.
Avoid shift work if you can. An experiment showed that after only three night shifts, test subjects showed signs of pre-diabetes. If you do have to work the night shift, have breakfast in the morning when it’s light out, then sleep, and then have lunch. Don’t eat during the night shift. Dr. Kahleova acknowledged that eating can help us stay away, so night shift workers may need to find other ways to keep alert.
Surprise: Mini-Fasts Feel Good
This eating pattern gives your body a break by having periods of fasting between meals. Weirdly enough, Dr. Kahleova found that people who ate just two meals a day experienced less hunger and depression than those who ate six times a day, even though they were eating the same number of calories.
My Taster said dinner was not optional in his world, but he likes having dinner at six instead of seven or later. Our evening meal is smaller now too: mostly salad with a small helping of beans and grains. We have our daily dessert at lunch. Fortunately, we were already drinking only water or unsweetened tea. This gives us roughly a thirteen-hour fast every day, with mini-fasts between meals.
I thought I’d be hungry or even hangry during my pre-breakfast morning walks. Instead, I love starting the day out among the birds and flowers instead of reading the news. I’m more alert right after lunch, when I used to crave a nap, and sleep better at night. Thank you, Dr. Kahleova, #ppod2019, and my reset clock genes! Come back next week to learn more of the great tips I picked up at the Plant-Based Prevention of Disease conference.