The absolute importance of meal timing: insulin sensitivity and hunger control

2 October, 2018
The influence of meal timing and intermittent fasting

So its year 2018 and everyone is already aware of the benefits of intermittent fasting, right? Let’s talk about this topic with a wider perspective: meal timing in general. Or: how eating 10x a day is killing us all silently. Get in!

*Hi again*

It has been a while since I made my previous post. D’oh! I guess I felt overwhelmed about writting in English (somehow hard for me) and the very little visit counts this blog is receiving. I am very busy with my main blog (Daniscience) but anyway I want to take care of Mediterranean Men from now on, even prioritize it over Daniscience which is pretty much a completed project! I can translate some of the most popular posts into English and add the particularities I find important to the American/European audience. This is going to be high quality over quantity. Mmmmkay?

Insulin sensitivity

Healthy Glucose uptake by cells insulin sensitivity

Right, the first factor I wanted to talk about, is the insulin sensitivity. You all know what that means isn’t it? The correct intake and usage of glucids by your cells when your insulin is working properly.

Every time you eat, your pancreas secretes insulin as a signal to store nutrients into your cells. Depending on the foods, macronutrients, and their quantities, your body will secrete more or less insulin. In every cell you have insulin receptors which allow or deny the uptake of these nutrients (not only glucose). But, if you are constantly eating and flooding your blood with insulin, two bad things will happen:

  • Insulin receptors will start shutting off and/or malfunctioning.
  • Your pancreas will overwork as this keeps happening, leading to further organ exhaustion.

Within decades, we are eating more and more times a day (in general). Most people back in the paleo days would eat once or twice a day, eating three times a day would be something very rare, only happening in certain moments of the year with abundance of food by chance or whatever. Three meals a day was the standard of my grand-grandfathers and my grandfathers. My parents incorporated 4 meals a day, and my siblings and I grew up with 5 meals a day. Uh-oh! A quick increase of meals in less than a century, see it? And we are not counting those “innocent snacks” or “visits to the fridge” :) Yeah even if you just eat a single biscuit, or a yogourt or anything, it counts as another meal, and your entire body has to process it. I recently saw a TV show in which an obese woman would eat 33 times a day. Crazy!

Insulin is not bad, you just need to get rid of the massive insulin amounts circulating in your body. In order to achieve this and get your insulin to work properly, allow at least 3-4 hours of rest between one meal and the next one. To further increase your insulin sensitivity, let your body rest for at least 12 hours between the last meal of the day and the first of the following day. This is why ‘Leangains‘ intermittent fasting protocol works so well: you eat three times a day, with 4 hours of rest between those meals, and then a good 16 hour night rest from dinner to the breakfast: Break Fast = breaking the fast, can happen at any time of the day. If you only eat once a day (OMAD diet) and do it at night time, then that meal is your breakfast and it is perfectly OK!

Talking about macronutrients: carbohydrates release the most insulin, while protein releases like half of it, and fats do it in a much smaller scale, some even assume fats won’t provoke an insulin release, which is not right to be honest, but it is indeed small. As a general rule, most people nowadays overeat, and they specially indulge themselves in large amounts of carbohydrates. They are just so addictive, tasteful and cheap, the industry loves to add carbs specially sugars everywhere so their products are cheaper, profit margins bigger, and people get attached to the awesome flavors and sensations carby foods bring. I am not saying carbs are evil, we just eat enormous amounts our bodies can’t handle properly in the long term.

Of course if you are a bodybuilder, or any sports athlete or even just an average guy who likes training, you can tolerate bigger amounts of carbohydrates and more meals a day. Maybe the amounts that you were already eating, maybe less, maybe more, it depends. Even for you, some periods of carb restriction and/or intermittent fasting can restore your insulin sensitivity so it works BETTER for you in following bulk periods. Insulin helps create muscle mass, but what happens if your insulin is not working properly? Think about this next time you follow a superhigh carb diet for long periods of time! And even if you want to add serious muscle mass, you can do it with 4 large meals a day separated 4 hours, this still gives a 12 hour overnight rest to your organs, this is a nice protocol if you want to try it.

Timing has its importance too. Our bodies are more insulin sensitive when there’s sunlight. So, eat during daytime and avoid late night eating!

Hunger control

Hunger control and meal timing

This is the other important factor I am stating (might be many more! But these 2 are master ones).

Hunger is our friend! Without it we wouldn’t give a cent about food, and we would eventually die. Right but as we stated before, nowadays the problem is the opposite, we are swamped with food, tasty and awesome and cheap and available food, all day long, everyday.

Hunger is somehow related with the already mentioned insulin, but with other two relevant hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Something similar happens with these hormones: your body can develop resistance to them so they stop working properly. In the long term your body just doesn’t know it’s already generously full of stored energy (body fat and muscles glycogen) and nutrients so you are hungry everytime and seek for more and more stuff to eat and drink.

Noy only insulin, leptin and ghrelin impact our hunger. Sometimes we would eat ‘just because’. There might be dozens of chemicals that can trigger hunger. How many types of hunger do you know? “Real hunger and psychological hunger” may state some. But, what is exactly “psychological hunger”? Sounds like a term experts use to avoid the uncomfortable fact that they don’t know why the hell someone eats for no apparent reason. Food Industry knows their business and knows what to incorporate in their products to make them irresistible and whatnot. Sugars, artificial sweeteners, flours and derivates, etc.

So what does meal timing have to do with hunger? Well it does, its demonstrated that less meals a day equal less hunger, i.e at the end of the day you eat less total calories eating ad libitum if you ate 2 times than if you ate 6 times. Yes the meals will be bigger but the total will be smaller. Great! This means if you seek for fat loss, you better cut the number of meals a day, while if you want to add muscle mass or improve your sports performance you can eat more times a day (as I stated, I think 4 times a day is optimal for this goal).

Timing here is even more important, if you are always dealing with hunger problems leading to fat gain, you need to test things out and guess which meal times suit best for you. For example lets say I am not hungry in the morning: why the hell would I eat if I am not hungry and I want to lose body fat? Seems a no brainer for me. Imagine I want to eat twice a day so I breakfast at 3pm (we in Spain usually eat our largest meal at this time) and do a final meal at 7pm, Great! A 20 hour fasting window. It might work for you, or maybe not. Lets say you try it and you face problems everynight and end up failing and adding a third meal and overeating. Then maybe 3 smaller meals a day is best for yourself? Or trying to delay your second meal to 9pm or 10pm could work best? Testing, failing and trying again is your job here :)

Come back soon!

Hope you have enjoyed the read. Sometimes we get to nice websites and sadly we just close the tab and we never meet again, don’t let this happen! Follow me at Twitter, or subscribe via email to this blog or just add this site to your browser’s bookmarks. Yours sincerely.

Read more:

Timing of food intake is more potent than habitual voluntary exercise to prevent diet-induced obesity in mice
Cronobiología: El reloj de la vida (Good Spanish read)

1 Comment

  • Reply Victoria 2 October, 2018 at 21:39

    Great!!! Thank you, I see it now clearly…

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