Timing is Everything: When to Eat, Drink & Sweat

  • Written By:Lauren Slayton
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Timing is sort of everything when it comes to your health.

My 81-year-old mother has started intermittent fasting. I say that because whether you’re young or old, the nutrition topic everyone has been talking about is intermittent fasting. Time restricted eating has made many aware of the importance of when we eat. (And it’s legit, there’s a swell of good research, some of which inspired my mother.) But aside from eating, we’re starting to see that timing matters in other arenas of our health, too. Timing is sort of everything when it comes to your health. Below, I dive into the best time to exercise, drink water, take vitamins, and more.

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The best time to… exercise

Many people are confused whether to eat before exercising or after. If you’re a morning exerciser, it’s best to exercise on empty (before you eat breakfast). This way, you’ll access those fat stores and burn fat, instead of burning off your breakfast. Another reason for exercising in the morning is that it tends to reduce both your cravings and appetite for the remainder of the day. Also, if you exercise in the morning there’s less to get in the way. Once the day gets started, it’s easier to blow things off.

There is one type of exercise that’s better in the afternoon and that’s strength training. Our body temperature increases throughout the day, this affects your muscle function and strength. Muscle strength, muscle flexibility, and muscle endurance usually peaks in the late afternoon or early evening.

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The best time to… drink water

For a few reasons, it’s important to drink water early in the day. First, we lose a lot of water when asleep, mainly through exhalation. The amount we lose varies, depending on the source, but it’s somewhere between a cup and a pound. Either way, a tall glass of water when you wake up is a good idea.

Hydrating in the morning also helps with energy late in the day. It’s not that water boosts energy, but that not having water can make that afternoon slump…slumpier. I find most of my nutrition clients aren’t great at drinking water in the first half of the day. The guideline “one liter by lunch” can be helpful. Drink one liter or four cups of water from the time you wake up to lunch.

Another challenge with water drinking is the getting up to pee issue. Try skipping major hydration two hours before bed. So, if you go to bed at 11PM, have that tea two hours before or by 9pm, if getting up at night is an issue

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The best time to… take vitamins

The vitamins you should take in the morning are vitamin D, B vitamins and an adaptogen called rhodiola. Vitamin D late in the day can affect your sleep, B vitamins (multivitamins often have B vitamins in them) are slightly energizing, as is rhodiola.

Some supplements that are good to take at night are magnesium, any natural sleep aids (such as passion flower or valerian root), and probiotics. Some say taking your probiotic at night helps with colonizing your gut while you sleep.

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The best time to… eat protein

You may want to limit protein (but you don’t have to skip it entirely) at dinner. This is especially true if dinner is on the later side (not something we endorse). Protein leads to acid production and keeps you alert —this is not what we need at night.

Researchers at the Institute of Metabolic Science at Cambridge looked at how dietary nutrients influence wakefulness. Study participants (rodent participants) were introduced to different nutrients, protein fat, and carbs. The feed including amino acids, what protein is made from, was most stimulating. Instead of a large protein portion at dinner, have your largest protein for the day at lunch. I refer to this as “dunch” or dinner for lunch. In terms of dinner timing, try for two to three hours-food free before bed for both your sleep and your weight.

While I’m fascinated with this research, it can feel like a lot to juggle. I read an article that said the best time to exercise is whenever you can. While timing matters, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Cherry pick which tips you wish to implement and go from there.

Lauren Slayton is a nutritionist and the founder of Foodtrainers.

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