The most frequently asked question after “what do I eat?” is “when should I be eating?” and the answer is both simple and complicated, but I’m going to break it down for you here.
The Ayurveda Clock
Using the guidelines for wellness as they are set out in Ayurveda might seem confusing, but they don’t have to be if you understand a few basic guidelines- everything has an elemental component, and balancing the elements to your unique constitution is your goal. Explaining the doshas and the elemental constructs is a topic for another post, but a quick review will help you make sense of today’s lesson.
There are three doshas, or constitutions, that everyone is born with and these doshas have unique and individual associations with the elements. Pitta is the dosha of fire and water- it is hot, sharp, and fast. Vata is the dosha of air and ether and it is cool, mobile, and dry. Kapha is the earth and water constitution and the qualities are slow, moist, and heavy among others.
This is important because even the time of day is ruled by the doshas. Creating a daily routine that maximizes the quality of the dosha during that time frame will help you to feel more aligned and in balance. So what are these times, and how do we use them to inform our eating habits? Good question.
The Ayurvedic Clock:
- 2:00 to 6:00 is Vata time. This is a good time for starting your day (mobile) and having a routine (evening meal time).
- 6:00 to 10:00 is Kapha time. You might notice that you are the most sluggish if you wake during this time, or in the evening hours as kapha is heavy. Kapha time is a good time to do some morning exercise, or lean into it in the evening for your pre-bed wind down.
- 10:00 to 2:00 is Pitta time. This is when agni, or digestive fire, is at its prime- meaning, a hearty & nourishing meal will be well metabolized.
When should I eat?
Most of us plan our meals around our obligations and work schedule, but in my experience this is a backwards way of living a balanced and mindful life. Think about it, work and obligations are important because you need to put food on the table and gas in the car, but what is more important than nourishing and nurturing your body?
You don’t have to quit your job and move to a commune to follow ayurveda guidelines, every day Ayurveda is possible with a bit of planning. If you want to use those guidelines to help you live a more intentional and mindful way then begin with aligning meals with the Ayurvedic clock.
- Eat a small , yet nourishing, meal in the morning during kapha time to fuel your workout, jump start your day, and set up your energy for the long day ahead. Set aside 10-20 minutes and be fully present as you break your overnight fast.
- Try to time the distance from dinner to breakfast at about 12-14 hours. There is no benefit to going longer than that, and in some cases it’s not advised to have longer than 14 hours between meals.
- Plan your most hearty meal at midday. For most of us, this is opposite of how we have been taught. Busy work schedules and lack of planning often result in skipped meals, fast food, or highly processed nutrition bars while staring at a screen. Take advantage of your high agni here and make the time for a balanced and nutritious meal- all you need is 20 minutes if you have a plan.
- Avoid snacking between meals if possible. The ideal space between meals is 3-5 hours, and it’s ok to be a little hungry. Give yourself the opportunity to check in and decide if you need a snack or if you’ll be fine with a cup of tea or a refreshing glass of lemon water.
- Dinner has become the heaviest meal of the day and it’s no wonder that GERD and other digestive problems are so prevalent. How can your body process a heavy, dense meal during the already heavy kapha time of day when you should be preparing for sleep? Work on a small to moderate evening meal that is easy to digest and full of nutrients, a balanced bowl of protein, whole grains, and veggies can take the stress out of planning dinner after your busy work day as they are easy to prepare and satisfying.
If you aren’t sure where to start with implementing everyday Ayurveda tips, starting with a good schedule might be the simplest way to find balance fast. Once you have a good grasp on the “when” of it all, you can start to tinker around with the specifics of “what” you’ll eat.
- Eat a small yet nourishing breakfast between 6am and 10am
- Plan a hearty lunch when digestion is on fire between 10am and 2pm
- Dinner can be satisfying, yet not overwhelming with moderate portions before the sun sets, or as close to 6pm as you can manage
- Skip the snacks if possible
When you eat is just as important as what you eat~Ayurveda Wisdom