Meal Timing and Heart Health

Meal timing has been a pretty popular concept – with several applications – for a long time now. Generally, people think about it relative to their workouts, with the goal of making sure that their body is properly fueled both before and after hitting the gym. But, with the rapid spread of Intermittent Fasting, meal timing has also taken on a much more broad use, impacting exactly when you eat each and every meal.

So, there are lot’s of reasons why people think about the timing of their meals. Often, energy levels, weight control, mental clarity, and insulin sensitivity are the most common motivators at work here. Some recent research, however, suggests that meal timing could even have a considerable impact on another aspect of health: your heart.

What We Know

The conclusions were spelled out (more or less) in a statement published by the American Heart Association (AHA) in early 2017. Based on an ever-growing body of research, the AHA was able to state that meal timing – in relation to the length of fasting periods – has a direct impact on insulin sensitivity, glucose control, and overall cardiovascular health.

Although most people are fairly unaware of it, your body runs on a very precise schedule. In fact, each organ has its own clock that regulates how it functions at different times of the day. These cycles, among other things, affect the way that those individual organs – and, by extension your entire body – responds to various nutrients at that given time.

For example, your body is much better at controlling blood sugar levels early in the morning than it is later in the evening. So, if you cram the majority of your food into your last meal, you will have difficultly regulating your blood sugar.

In general, the AHA recommends that most people get the majority of their calories early in the day and that you spread out the rest of your energy intake throughout a defined period. In Intermittent Fasting circles, this is called an “eating window.” Instead of cramming lots of calories into one giant meal or even grazing from sunrise to sunset, the idea here is to only eat within a given 8 to 12 hour period.

The paper, however, ran into some pretty significant problems.

What We Don’t Know

Even though the AHA seems pretty certain that meal timing definitely does impact the health and function of your cardiovascular system… they aren’t entirely sure why or how. Or even how to apply this knowledge.

Beyond the general guidelines mentioned above, the AHA had difficultly making any specific recommendations. Various health conditions, like diabetes, will influence how often people should eat for example.

Also, a person’s ability to eat mindfully will come into play. If you extend your fasting window, it’s vital that you don’t eat mindlessly once it is time to have your first meal.

What To Do

Which brings us neatly to the point: Listen to your body and eat mindfully.

Although there is science to suggest that the human body functions best when we go through an extended night-time fast and eat within a defined window, the exact details of that strategy will depend largely on you.