Health: Which time of day is useful for large meals?

There is no ideal nutritional pattern for everyone
Breakfast like an emperor, have lunch like a king and dinner like a beggar: Many people have this saying in mind when it comes to preparing their daily meals. But does this “golden rule” really apply? Does it really make sense to eat less in the evening? Not always, because the ideal eating rhythm can vary greatly from person to person. In an interview with the “dpa” news agency, experts explain how people “tick” with regard to nutrition and what it is worth paying attention to.

How important are fixed meal times?
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” - this view is widespread and it is therefore important for many people not to leave the house on an empty stomach in the morning. The reasoning sounds plausible: Since the reserves were used up overnight, the body needs new food in the morning in order to have enough energy for the day. This is also reflected in the famous saying when it is said that one should "have breakfast like an emperor". But is this theory correct? Is it actually the best thing for the body to have as much breakfast as possible in the morning?

Partly yes, because apparently the so-called "inner clock" of humans plays a more important role than previously thought. This complex system is primarily clocked by the light and, in addition to the sleep-wake rhythm, also coordinates the activity of the internal organs and the metabolism - and thus the body's handling of food. “This means that the same meal is processed faster in the morning than in the evening. It is therefore cheaper to eat a larger meal in the morning than in the evening, ”explains Andreas Pfeiffer from Charité Berlin. The composition of the meal is irrelevant, according to the head of the medical clinic for endocrinology and metabolic medicine.

Not without breakfast out of the house?
From the perspective of Hans Hauner, director of the Institute of Nutritional Medicine at the Technical University of Munich, it makes sense to pay attention to healthy foods in the morning. However, there is no general answer to how extensive the early meal should be. “A healthy breakfast is generally good. But it is questionable whether it must be the largest portion for breakfast. One should therefore also consider individual eating patterns and preferences, ”the expert told the news agency.

If you want to eat according to the so-called "metabolism-based approach", you should eat a large portion each morning and noon and then the smallest meal of the day in the evening. This sequence corresponds to the expert after the active times of our metabolism system. But everyday life is often different for working people: “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 food pattern would not last, ”says Hauner.

Radical rules are often pointless
Accordingly, there is not the one ideal nutritional rhythm that everyone should follow. The daily routines of people and thus the times when someone feels hungry are too different. This is also confirmed by the ecotrophologist and nutritionist Silke Lichtenstein and therefore advises against strict diet plans: "For example, if you impose a strict ban on eating after 6:00 p.m., you will start eating at 5:00 p.m. without feeling hungry, so that you will not be hungry later . That makes little sense overall. ”

However, if you want to eat a healthy diet, you should take care not to eat too often during the day. Because the constant "snacking" can quickly lead to a problem. “Today we tend to eat eight to ten times a day. The frequent supply of food means that the energy reserves in the cells are not used up, ”explains Andreas Pfeiffer. "Everything that is fed in does not end up in our direct energy stores, but as fat in the liver or blood vessels," says the expert, who also heads the Clinical Nutrition Department at the German Institute for Nutritional Research. In addition, studies have shown that frequent snacks also lead to an increased overall daily balance - therefore, especially after dinner, nothing should be eaten, the nutritionists emphasize.

Hunger does not have to be satisfied immediately
Accordingly, the body is not generally designed to eat food frequently and regularly. The well-known and firmly established "morning-noon-evening rhythm" had developed more culturally. “Hunger phases are perfectly 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. A growling stomach should not be interpreted as a "warning signal", adds Lichtenstein: "We should separate ourselves from the idea that hunger is something that must be combated immediately." Instead of immediately grabbing a snack, the expert felt that the hunger should be endured to treat the body to something “good” later on.

However, an exception here are people who are severely obese and therefore can no longer properly assess hunger and satiety. “Fixed meal times can help and reduce seduction between meals,” says Hauner. (No)

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