Meal Schedule: When Should You Eat 3 Main Meals

These days, many people understand the importance of proper nutrition and how overweight negatively affects our body and health. Starting with physical exercises and choosing the proper diet, everyone wonders how many calories they need to consume in order to achieve their goals.
Today I decided to discuss the most popular methods of calculating the amount of calories you should eat a day and factors such as the time of the day for each meal you consume. 


Meal Schedule: When is the best time for your meals

The reason for extra pounds and related illnesses is usually found in poor diet and lack of physical activity. 

But scientists are increasingly paying attention to another factor: disturbance of circadian rhythms, caused by a disrupted diet and rest schedule.

The idea that the body’s reaction to food varies at different times of the day goes back in time. Ancient Chinese physicians believed that energy flows throughout the body in parallel with the movement of the sun, and that intakes should be calculated accordingly: 7-9 a.m. was the time of the stomach, when the most food should be taken; 9-11 a.m. was the time of the pancreas and spleen; 11-13 was the time of the heart, and so on.

Dinner, according to them, should be light and consumed between 5 and 7 p.m., when kidney function predominates. Modern science suggests that this ancient tradition makes sense, although it explains it differently.

Good time for calories

Most weight loss diets involve reducing the total number of calories. But what if timing also determines benefits?

When overweight and obese women were kept on a diet for three months, those who consumed most of their calories at breakfast lost 2.5 times as much weight as those who ate more at dinner (although they consumed the same number of calories throughout the day).

That the main danger of late dinners is a lack of time to burn calories. Preliminary data show that the body uses more energy to process the morning meal, so you burn slightly more calories if you eat earlier. However, it is still unclear how this affects your overall body weight.

Another hypothesis is that eating late expands the total window during which food is consumed. This gives the digestive system less time to recuperate and reduces our ability to burn fat (because fat burning only occurs when our organs “realize” that food is no longer coming in).

Before the invention of electric light, people woke up at dawn and went to bed a few hours after sunset. Almost all food was consumed during the daytime. Most of people nowadays eat more than a third of their calories consumed after 6 p.m. This is very different from the way our ancestors lived.

Disruption of the day, inadequate and intermittent sleep can also contribute to weight gain. This impairs self-control, leads to poor food choices and disrupts the levels of the “hunger hormones” (leptin and ghrelin), increasing appetite.

Molecular clock failure


Our circadian rhythms are closely linked to digestion and metabolism through complex signaling pathways in the body. Inside every cell in the body there is a molecular clock that regulates the timing of almost every physiological process, from hormone release to blood pressure, immune cell activity, sleepiness, anxiety or depression.

This clock is synchronized with external time by a small area of brain tissue called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). And its”window” to the outside world are light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye called photoreceptor retinal ganglion cells.

Suprachiasmal nucleus (suprachiasmatic nucleus, supraoptic nucleus, supraocular nucleus) is an area in the hypothalamus responsible for generating circadian rhythms, acting as a “biological clock”. The regulation of circadian rhythms is provided by information from the retina to the suprachiasmal nucleus.

The point of this circadian clock is to allow the body to anticipate and prepare for regular events in its environment, such as food intake. In this way, different biochemical reactions are preferred at different times of the day, and this allows our internal organs to switch between tasks and recuperate.

When we travel overseas, our body clocks can become disrupted by time zone differences. The result is “jet lag,” which causes us to fall asleep or stay awake at inappropriate times and experience digestive problems and general malaise.

However, light is not the only thing that can disrupt the biological clock. Eating food can also “move the hands” in liver and digestive cells, even if the clocks in our brain cells are unaffected. Recent evidence suggests that the timing of exercise can also affect the clocks in our muscle cells.

When we constantly change the timing of eating, sleeping and exercising, the molecular clocks in our organs and tissues are out of sync with each other. Your health can suffer if this happends regularly. 

Meal Schedule

meal schedule

There is no universal diet for all people, in each case it must be chosen individually. Obviously, an ordinary adult working person and, for example, a powerlifter athlete, will eat differently, because they have significantly different physical and intellectual workloads. Most people are satisfied with 3 or 4 meals a day, 3-5 hours between meals. Nutritionists agree that the ideal diet is to eat four meals a day. 

According to the World Health Organization, one in three people on the planet suffers from some form of malnutrition: a lack of calories or nutrients, underweight or overweight. Incomplete causes a number of health problems: stunting, weight loss, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
The WHO estimates that about 1.9 billion adults worldwide are overweight and 462 million are underweight. At the same time, 41 million children under age 5 are overweight or obese, 159 million children are stunted, and 50 million have weight loss. And 29% of women (528 million) of reproductive age are anemic. Half of these women can be treated with iron supplements.

All of this subsequently exacerbates poverty and impedes economic development. The economic damage from malnutrition is estimated at $3.5 trillion a year.

"Malnutrition is a complex issue, but it is the main cause of death and disease in the world"

What is the essence of a meal schedule?

Without getting the necessary portion of nutrients from an empty digestive tract, the blood circulating throughout the body will come to the brain hungry. Then the food center begins to sound the alarm, saying it’s time to eat. By eating every day at the same time, the human brain develops a conditioned reflex that awakens appetite in time. It performs important functions:

ο Regulating the timing of meals and the amount of substances that come with food. With healthy digestion and a balanced diet, the appetite will not allow overeating;

ο Preparation of the gastrointestinal tract, production of saliva and gastric juice. Thus, food is more thoroughly digested and absorbed by the body without discomfort or heaviness. The body’s biorhythms play an important role in digestion processes. Already in the early morning, the levels of various hormones in the blood increase, which contributes to awakening, and also increases the production of gastric juice. The stomach is most active before dinner, and after 22:00 the secretion of digestive enzymes slows down, the body adjusts to rest before going to bed. That’s why experts recommend having dinner no later than three hours before going to bed.

Why do you need a meal schedule?

meal schedule

Once you know what an eating schedule is and why it’s necessary, you need to incorporate a proper eating schedule into your daily schedule. After all, regularity has a positive effect on the body:

ο Sense of satiety, no desire to eat on the run and snack on unhealthy snacks;

ο The elimination of overeating;

ο The smooth functioning of the digestive system, which is especially important for various diseases;

ο Controls body weight

Eating a healthy diet is a basic component of a healthy lifestyle, just like regular sleep. All you need to do to get your body into a healthy rhythm is create a daily routine and follow a two-week eating schedule.


The best time for breakfast is 1-1.5 hours after waking up, when the body starts the activity of all processes for the coming day. This time is the most important for the activation of the gallbladder, because overnight bile accumulates in the gallbladder and in order to release it, we need to eat breakfast. This, in turn, triggers the proper process of the digestive system.

Also breakfast affects the stress hormone cortisol. After breakfast, the hormone insulin is produced, which works in tandem with and affects cortisol. Allowing an excessive rise in cortisol in the morning without eating breakfast leads to increased nervous excitability.

By skipping breakfast, we miss the hours in which the metabolic processes in the body work at their maximum. Efficient operation of all systems requires a timely and optimal supply of energy, and if it is not there, then the balance in the body will be disturbed.

In the evening, metabolic processes slow down, and all that is eaten in excess, will be deposited in reserve.

In addition to the fact that it is necessary to eat breakfast every day, it is also important to know what kind of food to prioritize. Many people picture in their mind the ideal breakfast – a cup of coffee, oatmeal and a glass of orange juice. They think they will be both awake and full. But the problem is that such a breakfast causes a spike in glucose levels.

In response to the rise in blood sugar, the pancreas produces insulin. Once the glucose is metabolized, which happens quickly, blood glucose levels drop dramatically. Thus, even if at first we were satiated and even a little bloated after oatmeal and coffee, after two hours we feel hungry and think about a second cup of coffee, because the energy has gone somewhere, too.

To control blood sugar levels and avoid cravings for snacks and energy swings, you need to include protein and healthy fats in your breakfast. Healthy fats slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, providing satiety and helping to avoid insulin spikes. Eating a breakfast of healthy fats and quality proteins ensures blood sugar balance, sustained energy between meals, and long-lasting satiety.

meal schedule

Though it’s crucial to remember that individual genetic variables are also at play, studies show that having lunch earlier than usual can help people lose weight, in addition to eating a regular breakfast .

The human microbiome, which consists of bacteria in the stomach and throughout the body, has been shown to have major implications on one’s health, and recent studies have even shown that eating lunch early may help to a healthy microbiome .

In general, eating breakfast and lunch earlier in the day can help you lose weight and maintain your metabolism healthy.

Lunch should be the most satisfying meal of the day. It accounts for approximately 40-45 percent of your daily caloric intake. Just like breakfast, it should be nourishing so that you can successfully complete the day’s work. But do not go overboard, because not every office has nowadays fashionable sleep capsules.

Compulsory components of a proper lunch: soup, meat (poultry or fish) and a side dish in the form of vegetables or healthy carbohydrates (buckwheat, wild rice). Soup improves peristalsis and helps to satiety, meat gives you energy, vegetables help to digest meat, complex carbohydrates will help to last until dinner. At the same time, of course, we must not forget about the taste of food, because lunch should be a pleasure, not just a boring meal.

meal schedule

No meal is surrounded by as many myths and stereotypes as dinner. The principles of healthy eating refute them. It is not necessary to suffer from hunger, forbidding yourself to eat after 6 p.m., to octave off nutritious and tasty dishes in the evening or to limit yourself to yogurt of “zero” fat. Dinner can and should help in weight loss – it’s just a matter of its proper organization.

Skipping a long meal (from noon to morning) breaks the metabolism, hurts the mucous membrane of the stomach, interferes with the building of muscle tissue and metabolic processes that the body “runs” at night. Not having dinner in the evening makes it difficult for a person to fall asleep, and a healthy, adequate sleep is the key to effective weight loss. In the morning there is a loss of energy, it is hard to wake up and get up. This does not give “carte blanche” for evening overeating and exceeding your daily caloric intake.

Dinner on the Right Diet for weight loss is a timely eaten, nutrient-rich meal that will not cause heaviness and will not interfere with losing weight.

Dinner Meal Schedule:

ο Have dinner three hours before bedtime (plus or minus 15 minutes), so that the food is digested, and before going to bed you do not feel hungry. Therefore, the “before six” rule will only work if you go to bed at 9 p.m;

ο Dinner counts for 20-25% of the daily calorie intake – if you lose weight with a 1200-1600 kcal diet, it will be up to 400 kcal;

ο If the daily calorie allowance for the day has been met, it is allowed to supplement a light dinner with natural yoghurt with greens or bran half an hour before going to bed;

ο Do not skip evening meals – irregular suppers are fraught with gastrointestinal diseases, decreased metabolic rate, people become irritable and nervous;

ο Dinner should necessarily include foods rich in protein and fiber (about 100 g and 150 g respectively), with a minimum of carbohydrates, foods with a high glycemic index;

ο A proper dinner should be accompanied by a sufficient amount of liquid – water, pure or with lemon, green or herbal tea
ο In case of overeating (evening visit to a cafe, heavy work day) one must not skip breakfast the next day – additional workout or jogging will help to get rid of the calories gained