Diet plans need to be made based on meal timing, not calorie intake
05/20/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

At a recent event, experts agreed that diet plans should no longer be based on the idea of reducing calorie intake through balanced meals. In order for a diet to be effective, people should have a balanced daily intake with proper meal timing.

The meeting was held at the Royal Society of Medicine in London last November 12th and was called Chrono-nutrition: circadian clocks, mealtime, and metabolic disorders.

Dr. Alexandra Johnstone, personal chair at the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen, noted that weight loss requires more than just reducing the amount of calories a person consumes each day. Dieters need to reverse their calorie-intake to lose weight. That means eating less during dinner than during the day.

Johnstone referenced a study conducted by researchers from the University of Bath back in 2014. It reported that skipping breakfast made people 55 percent more likely to become overweight or obese. It also demonstrated that consuming a high proportion of total daily calories in the morning lowers a person's body mass index (BMI). (Related: Why diet plans should take sleeping patterns into account.)

Instead of balanced meals, eat carbs during the day and consume less at night

Michelle Gibbs, a dietitian and nutrition research consultant, noted that most people are forced to have their meals at certain times during the day due to work, school, and social life. These people could still get a healthy balance of calories and food groups despite their busy day; their meals just wouldn't look 'balanced.'


"We are used to thinking about a balanced meal but that’s actually a misinterpretation of diet plans," Gibbs warned. "As long as you get your nutrients throughout the day, they don’t have to be in every meal."

She said that an overweight person who wants to lose weight should consume no more than 200 grams of carbohydrates each day. However, splitting up meals and snacks makes it easy to exceed that limit.

An easier and better option is to get rid of carbohydrates with high glycemic indexes during dinner and confining all carbohydrate intake to breakfast and lunch.

Eat most of your calories during breakfast and lunch to ensure they get burned

In addition to reassigning carbohydrates, Gibbs also advised people to reconsider the timing of their meals, especially if they contain more calories.

People have a base metabolic rate that burns a specific number of calories during the course of the day. Since people are more active during daytime, they will burn more calories and burn them fast. It makes sense then to eat high-calorie meals during the day.

Gibbs also suggested eating smaller evening meals with low amounts of carbohydrates. Eating chicken or fish, together with salad or vegetables, for dinner would be ideal.

Suzana Almoosawi, a research fellow from Northumbria University, pointed out that dietitians should evaluate a patient's schedule and specify the best times for them to eat. Providing patients with clear targets would make it easier for them to follow their diet.

"I believe we need more targeted and personal dietary guidelines focusing on the distribution of energy across the day," said Almoosawi. "Eating occasions are not independent of one another – they form part of our daily eating patterns."

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