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Master Your Eating Times

by Abigail Markman, Nutritionist at Lumen · January 26, 2023 · 5 minute read
food time table

Eat Like a Pro: For Metabolic Flexibility and Sustainable Healthy Living

We’ve all been there - juggling our meals around work, family, or other commitments. 

Eating too late, not eating enough, overeating, or making poor choices – these unpredictable eating patterns can affect our diets, sleep, workouts, and overall well-being.

More importantly, these habits can trigger metabolic syndrome and lead to poor health outcomes. Getting a grip on integrating healthy eating habits and optimal meal timing is the key to achieving metabolic flexibility and sustainable healthy living.

Read on to see how.

When to Eat and How Much

Understanding how your metabolism works is crucial, regardless of your goal – weight loss, fitness, or better sleep. Metabolic health refers to the proper functioning of metabolic processes, which convert food and drink into energy and building blocks for the body.

This entire process happens in the mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses present in almost every cell, and their efficiency determines the health of our metabolism.

Metabolic flexibility, a key component of a healthy metabolism, is the ability of our bodies to switch between using these different sources of fuel, such as carbohydrates and fats, depending on the availability of those fuels.

When you're metabolically flexible, your body can easily switch between burning carbs for energy during movements and burning fat for energy at rest. This is important for weight loss because it means your body can burn fat efficiently, even when you're not exercising.

How to achieve metabolic flexibility with your meals

One way to do this is by eating at the right times. For the best results, you should personalize your eating times based on your current metabolic Lumen Level.

weight loss eating schedule

weight loss metabolic health plan

Our body is designed for daytime activity and nighttime rest. Historically, our ancestors rested during the night, and that’s why late-night eating messes up our circadian rhythm, changing the natural rhythm of our hunger hormone - ghrelin. This makes us hungrier and more likely to overeat. Plus, late-night eating can mess with our blood sugar levels, wrecking our sleep. Bad sleep means more cortisol, the stress hormone. High cortisol levels:

1. Prevent your body from burning fat

2. Push your body to crave sugary stuff

3. Contribute to insulin issues

4. Lead to the accumulation of belly fat

when to eat

when to eat to lose weight

Ever heard that old adage - "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper"? A good rule of thumb is to ensure you're eating your largest meal earlier in the day and gradually decreasing the size of your meals as the day progresses. 

A study published in the International Journal of Nutrients (1) found that people who ate a larger breakfast and a smaller dinner lost more weight and had improved metabolic health markers compared to those who ate the opposite way around.

For example, eat a balanced breakfast to start the day on the right foot, as it can help improve concentration and energy levels. Eating whole foods for lunch can further align you with your nutrition goals, serving as a healthy strategy to prevent overeating later in the day.

Top tips from our Lumen experts:

  • Use a nutritional plan personalized to your physiology to guide your day with the right amount of macros
  • Start your day with a nutritious breakfast.
  • Lighter dinners will help you avoid the post-dinner slump
  • Don’t go too long without eating - skipping meals can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, which can lead to overeating later on
  • Pay attention to portion sizes and make sure you’re eating the right amount of food at each meal
"With the combination of metabolic feedback and daily plans, Lumen gives me a structure to work with and enables me to fuel the best for my daily requirements, as well as help me to consistently use the right fuel at the right time."
Maria Fox, lost 50lbs in 7 months with Lumen

Fueling up Before and After Workouts

Nutrition and exercise are like two peas in a pod. They go hand-in-hand, affecting each other, and relying on each other. When we’re planning our exercise routine for the day, studies have shown that when you eat and what you eat is the key to getting it right.

Why Pre-Workout Meals?

If you plan to exercise first thing in the morning, eat a light breakfast at least an hour before your workout. Measure your metabolism to see whether you have enough fuel for the workout you would like to do. 

measure fitness levels

Consuming carbohydrates has been shown to boost workout performance and allow you to work out for longer at a high intensity. However, it's important to choose the right types of carbs. Skipping this light meal could bite you back with that sluggish, energy-drained feeling.

Simple carbohydrates may provide immediate energy, but their effect can wane rapidly, potentially leading to an energy slump before your workout concludes.

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates offer a more steady and enduring energy supply. As you prepare for your workout, consider foods rich in complex carbs such as rolled oats, whole grain bread, lentils, beans, whole grain pasta, berries, apples, potatoes, and yams.

Adding carbohydrates to your menu is best for reaching maximum energy. Some more examples include:

  • Yogurt
  • A banana
  • Low-fat milk
  • Whole-grain cereals or bread
"Before a medium-high intensity workout, fueling up with a carb-rich snack is the best way to ensure you will have enough energy for your workout."
Marine Melamed, Registered Dietitian at Lumen

What About Post-Workout Meals? 

Since nutrition plays a critical role in muscle-building and recovery, the foods you eat after a workout can make or break your progress in the gym.

Mia Johanna Dige, a personal trainer and Lumen's metabolic coach, recommends a healthy carbohydrate, like half a banana, before medium to high-intensity workouts if the individual is fat-burning (Lumen level 1 or 2). This is because we rely on glycogen stores for energy during higher-intensity workouts.

"After medium-high intensity workouts, a high-quality carbohydrate with a source of protein could be consumed after the exercise session. The carbs will replenish energy stores, and the body will use protein towards muscle repair and recovery."
Mia Johanna Dige, Metabolic Coach

After workouts, consuming carbohydrates and protein within two hours can aid muscle recovery and replenish glycogen stores. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, so consider lean protein sources like turkey or chicken on whole-grain bread with vegetables or yogurt with fruit.

Top tips from our Lumen experts:

  • Engage in various activities that give your body opportunities to move and exercise
  • Eating carbohydrates and protein within two hours after your workout will close your fitness loop
  • Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair.
  • After workouts, try turkey or lean chicken on whole-grain bread with vegetables or yogurt with fruit. 

balance diet time table

Eating late at night can affect those ZzZ's

The connection between sleep and weight is as strong as the bond between peanut butter and jelly. Dr. Michal Mor, Lumen’s Co-Founder, shares that Lumen users who sleep approximately 7-9 hours per night are 35% more likely to reach a fat-burn state in the morning compared to users who sleep approximately 4-6 hours per night. 

Carbs are better metabolized during the day. Eating them too close to bedtime can cause indigestion and make it harder to fall asleep. Eating heavy, high-fat foods before bed, are also a ‘no-no’ because they take longer to digest and cause discomfort. Instead, opt for a light snack or a small meal earlier in the evening to improve the quality of your sleep.

When your natural sleep-wake cycle is out of sync, the confused mitochondria in your cells produce energy erratically, and restful sleep can become a challenge.

Synchronizing your eating patterns with your body's circadian rhythms can optimize metabolic processes and promote weight management. Therefore, consistently eating dinner early sends your body the signal that nighttime is approaching and less energy is needed. Adding in magnesium-rich foods, like nuts, seeds, greens, and whole grains, promotes muscle relaxation, setting the stage for deep sleep. 

"There's a very strong correlation between food, digestion, and sleep. Eating at the right time can facilitate a night of good and restorative sleep."
Dr Michael Breus, Sleep Expert and Lumen member

Top tips from our Lumen experts: 

  • A healthy amount of sleep every night is 7-9 hours
  • Adjust your eating timing habits before bedtime
  • It's best to stop eating 3 hours before bed. It helps the body shift to morning fat burn
  • Make appropriate nutrition decisions for a good night's sleep
  • Measure your metabolic status before bed and when you wake up. Your morning breath is the most important indicator of your day 

meal times carbs

meal times carbohydrates

Eating When Stressed? Here's How to Tackle That

It's difficult to live in a worry-free bubble, but anxiety can cause your adrenal gland to pump out too much cortisol, and high levels of the stress hormone change how your metabolism stores fat. For many people, stress can have a direct impact on their weight. A person's weight loss or gain will vary depending on the situation and the person. When you’re stressed, your body tends to go into “fight or flight” mode, which in some cases, may lead to skipping meals and poor food choices. 

Stress also makes it difficult to fall asleep, which can further affect your metabolic flexibility. Proper sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism, as mentioned earlier.

"I was learning things about my body that I hadn't known before. I learned that my body did not like carbs after 3 / 4 pm. This little guy [Lumen] is a game changer."
Patricia, lost 50lbs using Lumen

Top tips from our Lumen experts: 

  • Keeping hydrated will keep you feeling full and help curb sugar cravings
  • Check in on how your energy levels shift during the day, especially based on your mood
  • With the right nutrition balance, you can avoid feeling brain fog and fatigued
  • The endorphins released during physical activity can help relieve built-up stress

Many people are unaware of how much meal timing impacts their journey toward sustainable weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. Tracking and measuring your outcomes can help you stay on track, but creating and sticking to a schedule may be a struggle at first. However, it can work wonders for your body and overall health once you figure it out.


Lopez-Minguez J, Gómez-Abellán P, Garaulet M. Timing of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Effects on Obesity and Metabolic Risk. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 1;11(11):2624. doi: 10.3390/nu11112624. PMID: 31684003; PMCID: PMC6893547.

"Meal timing and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults" - Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (2016)

Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(7):435-441. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006

Abigail Markman, Nutritionist at Lumen

Abigail Markman holds a Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences, underscoring her vast knowledge of nutrition and health. She has been a practicing Nutritionist for several years, driven by her passion for empowering people with valuable insights into balanced nutritional intake and lifestyle habits and their significant role in promoting overall well-being.