Does it matter when you eat? The facts about fasting


Does it matter when you eat? The facts about fasting

It seems the old mantra “you are what you eat” has a new spin these days: “You are when you eat.”
There’s no shortage of acolytes for intermittent fasting as a way to get in shape or lose weight. The idea is to prolong the periods between meals so the body will exhaust its sugar stores and begin to burn fat.

Not so fast

Still, although some studies have found benefits to intermittent fasting, other research has found the approach to be about as effective a traditional, low-calorie diet for weight loss. In the end, many experts agree meal timing is less important than eating a balanced, nutritious diet.
“I wouldn’t say there are bad times to eat,” explains Hope Brinkmann, a registered dietitian at Tidelands Health, our region’s leading health care provider. “You definitely don’t want to go extremely long periods without eating, so intermittent fasting is a trend that is generally not recommended.”
At Tidelands Health, registered dietitians such as Brinkmann work closely with physicians and other specialists to help patients develop meal plans tailored to their unique medical conditions and health needs.

Focus on the basics

Proponents praise intermittent fasting because it restricts calories and can cause short-term weight loss. Over the long term, though, the approach isn’t sustainable for most people, who are better off working toward a diet filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, Brinkmann says.

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Brinkmann steers her patients away from following diet fads and or worrying about headlines demonizing certain foods or ways of eating.
“A lot of people get stuck when they hear, ‘This food is bad. This food is good.’ There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on the internet about good food versus bad food,” Brinkmann says. “What I do is teach people that there are not really relationships that are good or bad with food. There are just different purposes that different foods serve for us.”

Late-night meals, midnight snacks

Another myth Brinkmann tries to debunk is the idea that your body burns calories differently late at night. She points out that evidence is limited about metabolizing food at different times of day.

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“There’s some evidence to show you shouldn’t drink caffeine or a high-sugar product before bed because it can keep you more awake. And you don’t want to exercise so closely to bedtime that it keeps you up.
“But in terms of eating, it’s not the end of the world to eat and then go to sleep within an hour or so,” Brinkmann says.
Still, people who wake up in the middle of the night should stick to water. Brinkmann says that occasional midnight munchies are likely no cause for concern, but significant eating in the middle of rest periods may lead to weight gain.

Listen to your body

Rather than following a prescribed regimen for the timing of meals, Brinkmann encourages patients to find mealtimes that work best for them.
“Everyone’s a little bit different,” she says. “It’s a very individualistic approach. Some patients and people need to have small frequent meals versus three larger structured meals in the day. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet.”

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