What did you have for breakfast? Lunch? There's a lot more to them than you may think, The healthiest meals could be passing you by.
From eleven in the morning to two in the afternoon your body has a higher concentration of enzymes designed specifically to digest proteins. If you satisfy your body’s most dire nutrient needs at lunch time, the rest of your meals don’t have to be huge and bulky. Bottom line: your body is naturally designed to eat your heaviest meal during lunch hours, not dinner.
Even if you ate dinner at six or seven then went to bed at nine, your body would still be under the extreme stress of digesting while you sleep. Add the typical American diet to the mix and you’re digesting heavy proteins like chicken and steak as well as other complex starches all while you sleep. Sounds like no big deal, but it is to your body. Perhaps the average person doesn’t give this much thought to what goes on in their body while they’re asleep, but let me tell you this: you’re missing out on some of the best rest and regenerative healing by eating heavy meals before you go to bed.
Sleep is designed for rest and renewal, not heavy digestion. Many of us don’t understand how much energy it takes our bodies to digest food. If your body is doing its most complex task at the least optimal time, you’ll sleep alright, but you won’t rest well. You won’t heal well and you won’t even know why you’re so lethargic all the time. What we were never taught is that the best time to eat food is when the sun is up because digestion also works with the sun. Noon time is peak time for a good, solid meal.
What about Breakfast?
We’ve been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was easy to believe. We all naively bought into the marketing campaigns that made breakfast cereals a multi-billion dollar industry. But most of our ancestors understood this very well long ago: breakfast means to break your fast. You fast (don’t eat) while you sleep. We have to connect the dots on how important it is to break your fast correctly.
It’s only right since we’ve got lunch and dinner flip-flopped that we have breakfast messed up, too. Instead of gently breaking our fast in the mornings, we’re picking up where we left off at dinner the night before with something heavy like eggs, bacon, and cheese grits. Have you ever fasted before? Trust me, no medical professional in their right mind will advise you to eat so much protein and so much starch to break your fast. But in our society, breakfast isn’t breaking a fast. It’s breakfast, the most important meal of the day (sarcasm). This is what media and marketing reinforces every single day—wake up to a starchy, protein packed meal to break your fast, eat a horrible lunch, stuff yourself for dinner, go to bed, then have dinner for breakfast when you wake up.
Lunch is the Key
So lunch is important, more important than most people have ever been taught. But a lot of us only eat lunch if we’re very hungry or if we didn’t eat breakfast. Too many consider lunch just a holdover until dinner. Even if you ate a half way decent meal for “dinner,” at six p.m. when you get home, it still wouldn’t negate the fact that you had a fatty, greasy lunch. The average one hour lunch break really boils down to less than 20 minutes to eat, and with that little time it’s no wonder most of us find our way to the nearest drive through. Our workplaces don’t value lunch much so we tend to devalue it, too. I remember many days where I’d skip out on lunch to get extra work done. I’d do that confidently because I knew I’d make up for it with a good dinner. But there’s so much more to lunch than just being a place holder meal.
Eating during the sun’s peak times re-energizes your body and can elevate blood sugar levels in a good way, helping you focus and concentrate throughout the day. Breakfast can be good. The mistake people make is eating a big breakfast and going too long before they eat again. This puts your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. This is part of the reason a lot of folks run out of gas at work by 2pm. A good breakfast-lunch combo helps keep your metabolism active for the long run.
You’ve got to be conscientious about what you eat for lunch if you want to achieve optimal health. Many of the lunches people bring to work are filled with nutrition deficient foods that smell good but wreak havoc on their digestive system and leave them in need of a midday nap. I guess the best part about that is even if you eat burgers and wings for lunch, at least that’s the best time for digesting proteins.
A Little about Dinner
Not everyone is a lunchtime bandit though. There are those who eat heavy lunches and heavy dinners, too. It’s a little disheartening to see some people overdo it twice or more per day. If I eat a big lunch at one p.m., I’m full until at least five or six most times. But what you still don’t want to do is eat at one o’clock then not eat again until seven or eight. No matter what you eat, with those hours you’re playing a dangerous game with your blood sugar. That’s a debilitating eating habit that affects your weight, your quality of sleep, and your body’s ability to heal itself. Bad eating habits will always come back to haunt you.
Reprioritizing lunch can be a major effort if you work a nine to five. First of all, it’s not easy to eat healthy period, much less eating healthy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But I hope this understanding can inspire change. People struggling with weight management can really benefit from the light breakfast/heavy lunch combination and add small, easily digestible meals towards the end of the day.
What are your experiences with your meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? When do you eat your most nutritious meal?