Fit For Purpose – Meal Timings

Ask anyone how many meals a day you should eat, almost everyone will instantly reply three. If you ask them why, they may respond that it is healthy. Ask them why it is healthy, and people will start to draw a blank. The fact is that the idea of three meals a day was built out of the industrial revolution when workers needed a meal before a full day’s work without rest. Before that only the decadent aristocracy ate breakfast. In fact, the Romans normally had only one meal a day around midday, something that most Italians still do, bar a croissant and a coffee in the morning and a smaller dinner.

Despite all the advertising that breakfast and Mr. Kellogg have done, breakfast just isn’t the most important meal of the day. Unless you are going to be in lectures and labs all day without a chance to eat a proper lunch, you may actually be better off missing out on breakfast. Most breakfast cereals are full of carbs and sugar, and just won’t keep you full and energetic all day. When you have sugar on an empty stomach it goes straight into your bloodstream, and your body starts using the carbs and the sugar for energy. This is great! … For the first hour or so. After that your body’s sugar levels will start to drop, making you feel fatigued and snackish.

The best thing to eat for breakfast is something with protein and fat, which will keep you fuller for longer, making you less likely to snack and more energised for the rest of the day. I’m a huge fan of brunch myself, which was originally invented as a meal for party-goers from the night before.

Over the summer I decided to give Intermittent Fasting a go. I’d been hearing about it all over the place, and it was obviously the summer of intermittent fasting as both my college brother and my (real) sister had independently decided to give it a go too. The idea is simple: you eat the same amount you would have eaten otherwise, but between the first thing you eat and the last thing you eat there can only be 8 hours. So from midday to 8pm, or 2pm to 10pm, or whatever hours you choose. The theoretical benefits are many, from spending longer fasting so you start to burn fat rather than burning food that you have just eaten, to increased focus in the fasting period, to an improved immune system and longer life.

In my personal experience, the first couple of days were difficult. I was hungry when I woke up and I wanted to eat. But that was it. I thought I was hungry. The fact is, most of us have never truly been hungry. All of us would survive perfectly fine if we didn’t eat for a full day (and we may even come out the other side better, with reduced inflammation, growth of new brain cells, and increased HGH which builds muscle and burns fat). That being said, not eating for one full day a week is fine given a normal diet and regular exercise. As much as I hate to sound like an American drug advert, but ask your GP before doing anything too drastic.

Could you fast one day a week? Regular fasting is a completely normal part of many cultures and could stand to benefit you.