In today’s ” Q and A’s”… I’m covering “What Is The Latest Time You Should Eat A Meal?”
Most folk think that there’s a specific time as a deadline…
Well, here’s the thing, that’s not actually the case.
And knowing the following could be key to helping you tweak your eating plan to ramp up your results! So make sure you don’t skip today’s lesson!
I hope you enjoy this edition of VFT’s Q and A… Don’t forget to comment and let me know how today’s Q and A helped you.
For a more detailed answer see Ross’s written response below.
Contrary to what some people say, there really is no time that is too late to eat a meal. That said, the later you eat your last meal, the more careful you have to be about what you eat and how many calories you consume.Generally speaking, the later you eat, the higher the chance that calories will be converted into fat, especially if you eat junk foods (chips, cookies, etc.) or other sources of empty calories. Basically, if your body cannot use the calories you consume, they get converted into fat. This is one reason why it is important to eat as healthy as possible later in the day.In the morning you might be able to get away with eating less than ideal foods, because your body can use those calories for energy throughout the day, but this does not happen at night. You also have better insulin sensitivity earlier in the day, so carbs do not cause as many problems as they do at night.When it comes to figuring out what, when, and how much you should eat for your last meal of the day, I have come up with 4 things to take into consideration:
2. Goals: fat loss vs. muscle gain– This is an issue that has a significant impact on your last meal of the day. If your primary goal is fat loss, it is a good idea to be conservative with your last meal. This means eating a little earlier, eating fewer calories, and decreasing the amount of carbs and fat in the meal. If your last meal is within a couple hours of bed, something like chicken breast and steamed vegetables would be a good choice.However, if your goal is muscle gain, your last meal should be designed to minimize the muscle loss that happens during the night. Some amount of muscle is always lost overnight, but the amount can be changed by what and how much you eat at night. Eating some additional carbs prevents some of the protein breakdown, but it can also lead to a little additional fat gain. It really just matters what you priorities are.Realistically, most people want to minimize muscle loss and maximize fat loss, so the key is to eat just enough to maintain muscle without gaining fat. This is where the specific foods you eat make a big difference. Eating junk foods will cause fat gain, but lean proteins combined with slow absorbing complex carbs are effective for both goals, if they are eaten in the right amounts. Unfortunately, figuring out what is right for you may require some trial and error.
3. Exercise –Exercise may not affect your evening meal(s) if you workout in the morning, but it can make a difference if you exercise late in the day. After you exercise, you should eat something to replenish lost nutrients, refill energy stores, and speed recovery. If you finish exercising within an hour of going to sleep, you should still eat something.Even if your primary goal is fat loss, eating a late meal after a workout is still a good idea. You just want to make the meal small, nutritious, and focused on protein and quality carbohydrates. An example could be a small to medium sweet potato and fish. If you are more concerned about muscle gain, a larger meal of similar quality is recommended. Again, the meal should be adjusted to match your physiology (metabolism) and goals.
4. Sleep – Sleep is an important, but often overlooked part of health and fitness. Getting enough sleep is essential for recovery and even helps maximize fat loss. If you don’t get enough sleep it tends to make everything more difficult and if you are significantly sleep deprived for an extended period of time, it can be hard to make any progress at all. This has significance for your last meal of the day as well.
If you eat your last meal too early or consume too few calories throughout the day, you may wake up during the night from significant hunger. This is usually more of an issue for people who eat 5-7 small meals per day and/or have a naturally fast metabolism, but it can be a problem for anyone. If you wake up during the night because you are hungry, it may be a sign that you need more calories throughout the day or need to eat your last meal a little later.
Personally, I have to eat my last meal within an hour of going to bed or I wake up in the middle of the night from hunger pangs. When this happens I have to get up to eat something before I am able to get back to sleep. It is definitely not worth interrupting sleep to wake up to eat, especially when this can be avoided by eating closer to bedtime.
Admittedly, most people do not have this problem, especially if they eat 3 large meals per day and have at least a partially suppressed metabolism. If you do have a fast metabolism or eat small frequent meals and wake up during the night, you can use that to help you figure out when and how large your last meal should be. You could also try eating more earlier in the day, but regardless of what approach you take, try to eat enough to allow yourself to get a good night sleep.
Meal timing and exercise timing can both impact your overall results, but try not to go overboard worrying about doing everything at exactly the right time. The majority of your results still come from the overall quality of your nutrition and exercise programs, so try to keep things in perspective. Always focus on the most important aspects of your program first (consistently eating right and exercising) and then you can work on improving the smaller things that have less of an impact.
By Ross Harrison
VFT “Awesome” Fitness Expert 🙂