Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
3 Reasons Why Meal Timing Matters for Health and Longevity
In our new book, The Longevity Plan, we report that living in rhythm is a key component for health and longevity. In this article, I share the latest research showing why meal timing, or eating in rhythm, can allow you to eat more without gaining weight, prevent heart problems, and possibly even extend your life.
What is Meal Timing?
Just as it is important to sleep at approximately the same time each day, so too is eating at about the same time each day. Emerging research shows that eating according to your natural circadian rhythm can optimize your body weight, prevent heart issues, and promote longevity. In contrast, eating “out of rhythm” can set you up for a life of health struggles.
Longevity Village Meal Timing
“My life is simple. Because of this, it is easy to know when something is out of balance.”
Maxue, one of many centenarians we met in Longevity Village, rose each morning with the sun. And by the time it had crested over the lush, green mountains, she had finished her simple breakfast of porridge and vegetables.
She ate her midday meal at about the same time each day, and it always consisted of the vegetables, fruit, legumes, or possibly fish that had been gathered and harvested that morning. In the evening, she would sit down for a light and early dinner with her family.
The only exception came during Chinese New Year, when the workload was lighter, the meals were bigger and the nights were longer. Even this, though, came in rhythm.
In the fall of 2012 when we first met, Maxue was 103. She, like everyone else in the Village, had lived a life of almost perfect rhythm. And although she had been confined to a wheelchair for nearly a year following a fall that broke her hip, she was in good spirits.
When I asked if she had any other medical problems, Maxue laughed. “This is the first thing that has been wrong with me that I can remember,” she said. “Until my fall, I had not needed a doctor in my life.”
I marveled at this as I checked her pulse. It was strong and steady, and I told her so.
Still, Maxue told me, she sensed she wouldn’t be alive much longer. And if these were her final days, she said, that was fine. She would rise each day with the sun, as she always had, and make the most of the time she had left. She would spend her time with her family and continue her work. She would live out her time with the same rhythm of life she’d always maintained.
“We are not supposed to be here forever,” she said. “It is very good to have a long and healthy life. And when it comes to an end that is good, too. That is part of the rhythm of our lives.” Sadly, Maxue died peacefully at home a few months after we met.
Keeping Your Heart in Rhythm
As a cardiologist, I have a privileged perspective on the importance of rhythm in our lives. No matter how often I look at a person’s heart, be it in surgery or through an echocardiogram, I never cease to be amazed at what this exquisitely designed organ does throughout our lives.
To do this so well, and for so long, our hearts must stay in near-perfect harmony with our bodies. The heart must speed up when we need more blood and slow down when that need has run its course.
Most people’s hearts beat about 100,000 times each day. Think of what that means when it comes to reliability. Can you imagine anything that, having been used more than 35 million times in a year, is likely to be just as good at what it does next year as it is right now?
When you think of it that way, it’s really quite astounding how rarely things go wrong. But sometimes they do. One of the most common problems is when the heart falls out of rhythm and the upper chambers are no longer beating in synchrony with the ventricles. When this happens, it is usually due to a heart rhythm abnormality called atrial fibrillation.
As a significant percentage of my cardiology practice is dedicated to atrial fibrillation, every day I have the opportunity of helping people to get their hearts back into rhythm. While drugs and procedures can help, they usually don’t work long-term unless people also work to get their lives back into rhythm as well. And when it comes to getting your life back into rhythm, meal timing, as well as sleep timing, play an important role.
3 Reasons Why Meal Timing Matters for Health and Longevity
Based on the latest research, optimizing your meal timing may allow you to eat more without gaining weight, prevent heart challenges, and it may even give you some extra quality years of life.
1. Meal Timing Allows You to Eat More without Gaining Weight
In a fascinating study, researchers from Tel Aviv University showed for the first time in a high quality study that meal timing optimizes body weight. In this study, researchers enrolled 93 overweight women and then randomized them to one of two groups for three months.
One group ate most of their allotted calories in the morning while the other group ate most of their portioned calories in the evening. Even though both groups ate the same foods, with the same total number of calories, those who “preloaded” their calories in the morning lost 2.5 times more weight.
Not only did consuming most of their calories in the morning turbo charge weight loss, it also dramatically reduced triglyceride levels, optimized blood sugar levels, and took away their hunger. In contrast, the late eaters struggled with weight loss, had high triglyceride levels, threw off their glucose and insulin metabolism, and were always hungry.
Once again, even though they ate the same food with the same number of total calories, meal timing determined their body weight and health. If you are already at your ideal weight, then meal timing could allow you to eat more without gaining weight.
2. Meal Timing Prevents Heart Disease
With the ever increasing number of studies showing that meal timing determines body weight, cholesterol levels, and whether or not someone gets diabetes and heart disease, the American Heart Association recently published a scientific document reaffirming how important meal timing is for optimal cardiovascular health. Quite remarkably, this American Heart Association report cited 138 well-done scientific studies supporting the importance of meal timing or eating in rhythm.
3. Meal Timing May Extend Life Through Intermittent Fasting
Having a light and early dinner, without a pre-bedtime snack, is probably the easiest way to lose weight and practice intermittent fasting. By going 12 or more hours without anything to eat in the evening, you allow your body’s metabolism to stay in rhythm. In addition, intermittent fasting also stimulates many DNA repair mechanisms that may help to prevent cancer and extend life.
While we don’t yet have human studies showing that intermittent fasting extends life, animal data certainly exists. For example, one study showed that rats live 83% longer when they have no choice but to practice intermittent fasting.
Take Home Message
The main takeaway of this article is that rhythm matters for health and longevity. Just as it is important to have your heart in rhythm, it is also important to live your life in rhythm. Even meal timing, or eating in rhythm, is important.
This is what they have done in Longevity Village for millennia without ever thinking about it. It just made sense for them to live all aspects of their lives in rhythm.
People who try to live their life outside of their body’s natural circadian rhythm put themselves at risk. Indeed, studies show that circadian rhythm disruption increases your risk of heart disease by 40%. While sleep timing is critical for living in rhythm, meal timing may be every bit as important as well.
My challenge to you this week is to try meal timing. Of course, if you suffer from diabetes or any other medical condition, please discuss meal timing with your physician first.
The easiest way to practice meal timing is to simply preload your calories earlier in the day and finish your day with a light and early dinner. As everyone’s schedule is different, the timing of your light and early dinner may vary. Regardless of when this occurs, try to finish eating at least by 7 pm.
Do you practice meal timing? What has your experience of eating in rhythm been?
Please leave your thoughts and questions below. I’ll do my very best to answer each and every question within 24 to 48 hours.
Also, if you want to learn more about living a life in rhythm, please be sure to buy a copy of our #1 Amazon best selling book, The Longevity Plan.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.