What times of the day should you eat

Diet and meals: what is the best time of day and the best rhythm for eating?

In the morning like an emperor, at noon like a king, in the evening like a beggar - according to a supposed wisdom, this is how you should plan your meals. But what do experts recommend when it comes to eating rhythm? Is there an ideal one?

Eating according to the time of day: breakfast - yes or no?

People are more tied to their internal clock than previously assumed, also called circadian rhythms in specialist circles. Light and darkness not only control the sleeping and waking phases, but also many metabolic hormones. This affects the way the human body handles food. "This means that the same meal is processed more quickly in the morning than in the evening. It is therefore cheaper to eat a larger meal in the morning than in the evening. The composition of the meal is irrelevant," says Prof. Andreas Pfeiffer, Head of the Medical Clinic for Endocrinology and Metabolic Medicine at the Charité Berlin.

Vegetarians, vegans, fruitarians: who actually eats what? 1/7
  • Vegetarians forego meat in their diet or all foods for which an animal had to die. Around 3.7 percent of the population in Germany are vegetarian.

  • Flexitarians want to protest against factory farming - but without completely giving up meat. The flexitarians pay more attention to what kind of meat is on their plate.

  • The pescetarians: no meat, yes fish! This is where the name derives from: The Italian "pesce" means fish. Your main concern is to set an example against the undignified keeping of land animals.

  • The raw foodist refrains from cooking his food. Raw food can be vegetarian, but doesn't have to be. The only important thing is not to heat the food.

  • Vegans reject all foods of animal origin. They want to set an example against the exploitation of livestock. The vegan does not only avoid meat, but also all other foods that come from animals.

  • Fruitarians only eat plant-based foods. In addition, however, the plant must not be damaged in order to be able to eat it. Potatoes and beets must not be eaten because the whole plant is destroyed during harvest.

  • Freegans try to live for free and also to eat for free. For example, you are looking for expired yogurt or fruit in supermarket waste. Most of them are also vegetarian. With their way of life, the Freegans want to point out waste, abundance and, above all, global poverty.

According to Pfeiffer, studies have also shown that people who skip breakfast have a poorer metabolic reaction at lunch. Your body has to secrete more insulin in order to transport the energy from food into the cells. "Low insulin sensitivity is a symptom of metabolic syndrome. People with metabolic syndrome have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes or having a heart attack." It is not clear whether the risk of obesity also increases.

Prof. Hans Hauner, Director of the Institute for Nutritional Medicine at the Technical University of Munich, sees it practically: "A healthy breakfast is basically good. But it is questionable whether it has to be the largest portion for breakfast. You should therefore also have individual eating patterns and consider preferences. " It is not a problem if someone does not like breakfast.

Eating rhythm: the main meal in the evening?

If you follow the pure metabolism-based approach, you should have a large serving in the morning and at noon and the smallest meal of the day for dinner. This rhythm is in harmony with the working hours of our metabolic system. As a working person, however, you often have a different rhythm. "For many people it is normal to eat the main meal in the evening after work. It makes no sense to ban dinner. Such a eating pattern would not last," says Hauner.

The ecotrophologist and nutritionist Silke Lichtenstein also advises against radical approaches: "For example, if you impose a strict ban on eating after 6 p.m., you will start eating in advance at 5 p.m. without feeling hungry, so that you won't be hungry later. That makes all of it little point. "

Frequent snacking and eating is noticeable

There is consensus that eating too often and snacks in between is a problem. "Today we tend to eat eight to ten times a day. Owing to the frequent intake of food, the energy reserves in the cells are not used up," explains Pfeiffer, who is also head of the Clinical Nutrition Department at the German Institute for Nutritional Research. "Everything that is supplied does not end up in our direct energy stores, but as fat in the liver or blood vessels." In addition, studies have shown that more frequent eating also makes itself felt through more calories in the total daily balance. Nutritionists advise not to eat anything after dinner in particular.

Does the body even need fixed meal times?

The human body is not fundamentally designed to eat frequently and regularly. Our fixed meal times are more of a cultural product. "Hunger phases are quite healthy as long as they do not result in malnutrition. Alternating between hunger and eating phases supports metabolic flexibility and has a long-term positive effect on health," says Pfeiffer. Lichtenstein says: "We should part with the idea that hunger is something that must be combated immediately." You can endure hunger in the knowledge that you will treat yourself to something better later instead of snacking on anything.

Very obese people are an exception when they no longer have a feeling for hunger and satiety. "Fixed meal times can help and reduce temptations between meals," says Hauner.

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?

In the case of interval fasting, eating is generally normal, but fasting for 24 hours at regular intervals. Interval fasting is not a short-term diet, it is designed to be practiced over the long term. "Interval fasting has a positive effect on the metabolism. Liver fat, blood sugar levels and insulin all decrease," says Pfeiffer. And that is relatively independent of the type of food. Hauner recommends: "In any case, you should seek advice from a doctor, and it is less advisable for older people."

dpa / AZ