Timing Is Everything

Optimize your metabolism using chrononutrition.
Consume larger, nutrient-dense meals earlier and lighter, smaller portions in the evening. Photo: Nadine Primeau

By Tapp Francke Ingolia, MS, CNS

Did you know that when you eat is as critical as what you eat? Welcome to the emerging field of nutrition science: chrononutrition, the study of how food, metabolism and meal timing interact to impact metabolic well-being. Central to chrononutrition is the circadian rhythm. Marrying chrononutrition with circadian rhythm is the magic potion for good metabolic health.

Circadian rhythm is the body’s clock. Operating on a roughly 24-hour system, circadian rhythm regulates the body’s internal processes. This internal clock is influenced by external cues such as light exposure, sleep patterns and feeding schedules. It orchestrates physiological functions that include hormone secretion, gene expression and metabolic activity.

The study of chrononutrition focuses on the importance of meal timing in relationship to circadian rhythm. Research suggests that metabolic activity is highest upon waking, and it gradually decreases throughout the day. A 2022 study shows how metabolisms respond to food in a high metabolic state (morning) as opposed to a low metabolic state (evening) in entirely different ways. Namely, that insulin response to morning meals is more favorable than to meals eaten in the evening. This study suggests that if two people eat the same food both in type and portion size, the individual who eats most of their calories later in the day may be more prone to weight gain, poor digestion and insulin dysregulation than someone who eats bigger meals earlier.

Traditionally, humans synchronized their eating patterns with daylight hours, consuming meals during the day, and sleeping at night. Irregular eating habits, late-night snacking, disrupted sleep patterns and exposure to artificial light from computers and phones can throw circadian rhythm out of balance.

So, why does meal timing make such a difference? When circadian rhythm is disrupted, it affects the part of the brain responsible for producing digestive enzymes essential for proper nutrient absorption. Consequently, the ability to break down food is compromised, leading to increased hunger and potential weight gain. Research indicates that insulin levels typically decrease over the course of the day, reaching their lowest levels at night. Due to the impact that insulin has on blood sugar, this creates a higher blood sugar level after evening meals, increasing the risk of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

The most popular form of intermittent fasting—skipping breakfast and eating only between the hours of noon and 8PM—may not be the best choice when it comes to blood sugar regulation and weight management. Instead, living by the old adage “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper” may be the better way.

Making strategic adjustments to mealtimes can help support metabolic health and living more in tune with the body’s natural rhythms.

Make breakfast your biggest meal of the day. Prioritize consuming a substantial breakfast to kick-start your metabolism and provide sustained energy throughout the day.

Adjust portion sizes throughout the day. Consume larger, nutrient-dense meals earlier and lighter, smaller portions in the evening.

This approach supports weight management, helps regulate blood sugar, and reduces the risk of insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction. Eating in sync with the body’s natural rhythms may be the perfect recipe for balanced metabolic health. standwellness.com

Caesar Salad Dressing


1 egg yolk

Juice from 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

1 oil-packed anchovy fillet, or more to taste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 medium cloves garlic

1/4 cup cold-pressed unfiltered olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth.