Why Meal Timing is More Important than Healthy Eating

Eat healthy.

Said every trainer.

At every gym.

You’ve ever been to.

But, we already know that we should eat healthy. We read, see, and hear it online, on TV, from medical professionals, and yes, even our trainers at the gym. At least we hope so.

Why do we want to eat healthy in the first place? Because we want to look lean, toned, and feel well physically. It’s as simple as that. Or is it?

If everyone ate healthy, we’d all have our beach bodies year round. We wouldn’t need to worry about chronic diseases brought on by weight gain, like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Yet, we do. Food for thought (no pun intended): just because you’re a healthy eater doesn’t mean you can’t gain weight, or succumb to things like overeating or indulgences. It’s just a human thing to do.

As a society, we’re so focused on “what” when it comes to healthy eating, that we forget about the “when.” Concentrating on the time aspect of your food habits might help you to eat healthier more consistently, burn fat effortlessly, while still leaving a little room for indulgence.

Since the "when" is such a crucial component of healthy eating. I've developed some meal timing strategies to help you reach your health goals, so that you can effortlessly burn unwanted body fat without feeling guilty about the occasional treat.

Let’s dive into it shall we?  


One of the easiest ways to adhere to healthy eating is to limit decisions. Worrying about whether or not what you’re eating is healthy taxes your willpower. We want to be able to consistently eat healthy and not think too much about it.

The easiest way to do that is to skip a meal. Intermittent fasting is a dieting method that restricts calories to a certain period of time throughout each day. It’s a method I personally use. Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you eat dinner at 8 p.m. on Monday. You’ll go without food until 12 p.m. on Tuesday, the next day. Then you eat lunch to break your fast.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, there are a lot of health advantages to intermittent fasting, included but not limited to:

-Increasing your metabolism

-Lengthening your lifespan

-Potentially reducing the risk of cancer

-Improving regulation of glucose

-Improving memory function

-Reducing inflammation

The two most important advantages (for our purposes) are:
1. You can easily skip a meal without wondering what you should eat and whether it is healthy.

  1. You’re burning fat while literally doing nothing. In a fasted state, your body has no other options but to pull energy from your fat cells. This is a great way to offset overeating, an occasional indulgence, or a slip up.

Eating Before a Workout

It’s funny to me that every avid gym goer believes that you need to make sure your body is fueled before you work out. If you look at our species historically, we didn’t fuel our bodies before hunting or gathering. We had to obtain the food first before we could eat it. There’s nothing wrong with mimicking that lifestyle by working out with minimal caloric intake. In fact, research published by The Journal of Physiology shows that it’s beneficial to exercise fasted, instead of fed.

It’s important to note that for professional athletes, fueling your body before an event certainly makes sense. But not for pro desk jocks, like us, who aren’t aiming for Olympic gold. We’ve got a much higher prize, the coveted inbox zero. And our end goal isn’t peak athletic performance, it’s looking good.

So instead of eating a lot before you workout, eat minimally or try it fasted. I personally work out fasted during strength training and eat minimally, a banana or a couple of eggs, before high-intensity workouts. This way you can prime your body to burn off fat from reserves instead of burning off what you just consumed.

Eating After a Workout 

If there was a time that overeating or indulging was okay, right after a workout would be as good a time as any. Our trainers tell us to eat healthy and eat protein after a workout. But they don’t tell you it’s okay to overeat afterwards, or even indulge.

To be clear, I’m not saying that you should overeat and indulge after every single workout. If you do though, don’t sweat it.

After a workout, your body’s glycogen reserves are depleted and ready to be replenished. At this time, your body is going to be most efficient with storing glucose and carbohydrates for energy, instead of fat.

So after you workout, take in your healthy fats, lean proteins, and vegetables. If you’re still hungry, go for some healthy starches and grains. And if you feel the urge to indulge, do so guilt-free. Managing your meal intake after workouts will allow you to burn fat efficiently, while affording you the liberty to overeat and even indulge a little.

What if I Don’t Workout?

If you don’t workout, the same rules still apply. Your body will adjust its appetite accordingly. You can fast, eat less throughout the day, and eat a larger meal while toning up, and feeling healthier too. You’ll get that (as well as the benefits of having some room to indulge) if you focus on meal timing.

All in all, we know what healthy eating looks like. But, we’re so focused on “what” to eat, that we forget “when” might be the best time to eat. If you time your meals right, in addition to eating nutritiously, you can get that lean, toned look, and feel healthy, too. 

So, tell that to your trainer next time you see them at the gym.

Andrew Kobylarz provides more advice for busy professionals looking to improve their eating habits in his course, Desk Job Diet. You can learn more by clicking on the link or reaching out to Andrew.kobylarz@mindyafitness.com. 

Photo Credit: iStock