This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

When You Eat Your Calories Does Matter. Here's Why

For both general health and weight loss.
Basically, having one whole pizza and not eating for the rest of the day isn't a good idea.
Basically, having one whole pizza and not eating for the rest of the day isn't a good idea.

We're always told to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and to snack in between if we're hungry, but does the timing of our food really matter?

Theoretically, couldn't we have 30 pancakes with maple bacon and then be satisfied for the rest of the day? Or skip breakfast entirely and eat a huge dinner to make up for it?

According to accredited practising dietitian Jemma O'Hanlon, distributing your energy throughout the day is important for a few reasons.

"There's no scientific research to indicate the ideal timing for eating, but what we do know is that it's the amount of kilojoules we eat across the day that's most important," O'Hanlon told The Huffington Post Australia.

If we eat all our energy in one go, or we don't eat regularly across the day, O'Hanlon says the following can occur.

You can overeat

By not eating regularly, the hungrier we can feel, meaning we are more likely to overeat when we do finally eat a meal.

"If we're eating more than our bodies are burning, the excess kilojoules will be stored as body fat," O'Hanlon said.

The amount of energy we need per day isn't a one-number-fits-all and differs from person to person, so knowing your individual total daily requirement is important.

"Our kilojoule needs vary depending on our height, weight, age, gender and the amount of physical activity that we do," O'Hanlon said.

"The average adult needs around 8,700 kilojoules per day, but everyone is different. is a great website which can help you discover more about your individual energy needs."

Exercising regularly will increase your energy requirements.
Exercising regularly will increase your energy requirements.

You may feel sick

"If you've ever eaten a huge meal all at once, you'll know that the side effects are not pleasant," O'Hanlon said.

These include feeling nauseated, sluggish, bloated and having stomach cramps.

"Feeling uncomfortably or stuffed full to the point of having to undo your belt is a clear sign that you've eaten too much."

You may not sleep well

Missed lunch and just had a ridiculously delicious and big feast right before bedtime? Depending on the individual, eating large meals prior to sleep may make it more difficult to fall asleep.

"We can experience the same symptoms when we eat a large meal just before bed," O'Hanlon explained.

"Chances are we won't fall asleep straight away and we may feel sluggish the next day. So, it's best not to go to bed on a full stomach, just like our mothers said."

Mum was right.
Mum was right.

Your energy won't be constant

"Scientifically we also know that in order to feel energised throughout the day, we need to keep our blood sugar levels as steady as possible," O'Hanlon told HuffPost Australia.

"And eating regularly plays an important role in this. Overall, the best way to be guided by when to eat is our hunger."

If you've skipped breakfast and are reaching for five doughnuts at 3p.m., this is a common sign that your blood sugar levels are dipping.

"Each time we eat, our blood sugar levels rise and the more we eat, the higher our blood sugar levels get," O'Hanlon said.

"Spreading out our meals and snacks means that we're giving our bodies regular top ups and not causing large fluctuations to our blood sugar levels."

Happy snacking.
Happy snacking.

To keep our blood blood sugar levels nice and steady, O'Hanlon recommends eating small portions more frequently.

"So, aim to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have a small snack in between if you're hungry."

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