When to Eat to Increase Fat Loss and Improve Performance
There are many myths around this subject and sometimes, if you hear something enough, you may believe it’s true. Let’s have look at some of those regular myths, starting with breakfast. It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the thinking being that if you eat breakfast, you are less likely to binge later on. Many people skip breakfast because they simply don’t feel like eating. If you are on a fat loss journey with a target limiting the number of calories you want to consume in a day, why waste your calorie intake at a time when you aren’t hungry? Why not wait until you are hungry to eat those calories and enjoy them? So let's put the theory of breakfast being the most important meal of the day to bed once and for all! Another myth around when to eat is that you shouldn’t eat late - i.e after 6pm or 8pm or at night as your food will turn to fat whilst you sleep. Calories consumed late have exactly the same affect on your body as those consumed earlier on in the day and will not change your metabolism. Additionally, you may have heard it said that it’s best to eat ‘little and often’. Again, this is not right. What’s important is that you stick to your calorie target for the day. If, for example your calorie target for the day is 1500, you will get the same results whether you spread those calories out, say 250 calories over 6 meals throughout the day, or whether you eat the 1500 calories in one meal at the end of the day.
So, regarding fat loss, the timings of meals is not important. What is important is that you stick to your calorie target for the day. Ideally, eat when you are feeing hungry and keep the calorie intake for that time whether that be early, middle of the day or later in the evening. Your results will be exactly the same. Remember that taking in more calories than you use in any one day will lead to weight gain, regardless of the time you eat.
Moving on to sports performance. It’s important to look at your carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrate gives us energy. Studies have shown that if you are planning to take part in sport, whether that be a marathon, football match, cycling race, tennis match or other event, the optimal time to increase your carbohydrates would be at least 24 hours before you play. This is known as ‘carb loading’. The amount of carbohydrate you need depends on the type of sport you are involved in and varies from person to person so it’s important that you research what’s best for you. The key thing to remember is that waiting until the day to have those calories is too late. You need to ensure you have your carbs in preparation at least 24-48 hours in advance of your sporting activity as the carbohydrates need to be stored in the liver and the muscles (glycogen) in advance, giving you optimum energy levels on the day to boost your performance.