Maintaining your physical health while trying to balance work and life commitments is a constant challenge, especially with many returning to full-time working hours and a likely increase in workload due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic. During this transitioning period, it can be very difficult to develop a regular exercise routine due to the constant change in our environment. This irregularity can be a hindrance to our ability to maintain good physical health. A simple yet effective way you can maintain your health is by having regular mealtimes and eating habits. Having good eating habits can be a simple way for you to control our energy intake, which will assist in maintaining or improving current weight and/or body composition.
Infrequent mealtimes are shown to be associated with weight gain, increase hunger hormones, and metabolic disturbances that may lead to cardiovascular risk. Trying to maintain a consistent time for eating will allow your body to absorb and use energy more effectively. Sticking to eating 2-3 times a day instead of sporadic eating 5-6 times a day will allow your body to release hormones responsible for metabolism at optimal times, leading to greater physiological function. This will also ensure energy levels throughout the day will be maintained and “crashes” can be avoided.
Although the most commonly skipped meal of the day, eating breakfast (and a big breakfast) is shown to reduce hunger, cravings, and post-meal release of ghrelin (“hunger hormone”) which can assist in preventing weight gain. Eating breakfast regularly can:
- increase satiety (feeling of fullness)
- reduce total energy intake
- reduce blood lipid levels (reduce risk of CHD)
- improve insulin sensitivity (reduce risk of type 2 diabetes)
Choosing meals and foods that are nutrient-dense can reduce the need for constant snacking or eating throughout the day to meet recommended dietary intakes. Foods such as sweet potato, kale, legumes, quinoa, nuts, and fish (particularly salmon) are smart and healthy choices that can be included in your meals. Foods high in protein can help you feel “fuller” for longer, increasing time between meals (allowing for controlled insulin release). Reducing the amount of processed foods which have high salt, sugar, and cholesterol content will help to control blood sugar and lipid levels, as well as prevent “crashes” in blood sugar levels throughout the day.
While trying to return to regular exercise and adjusting to new or previous work schedules, your physical health can be maintained by forming these healthy eating habits. With some tweaking these habits can also help you see better results in your exercise performance and results in the gym.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AES, AEP) (ESSAM)
Kahleova, H., Lloren, J., Mashchak, A., Hill, M. and Fraser, G., 2017. Meal Frequency and Timing Are Associated with Changes in Body Mass Index in Adventist Health Study 2. The Journal of Nutrition, p.jn244749.
Paoli, A., Tinsley, G., Bianco, A. and Moro, T., 2019. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting. Nutrients, 11(4), p.719.
St-Onge, M., Ard, J., Baskin, M., Chiuve, S., Johnson, H., Kris-Etherton, P. and Varady, K., 2017. Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 135(9).