How to Time Hack Your Snacks

How to Time Hack Your Snacks

Part of the success in planning dietary programs can come from the knowledge of how long foods “last” in the body. Imagine being able to decide what you really need to eat based on the time you have?! And, you can!

Dietitians have known for a long time that carbohydrates, protein, and fats all breakdown differently in the body, and that this varied system actually will keep you more satisfied from your meals if done carefully.

For example, think about how long you have between lunch and dinner, about 3-5 hours, right? So, what will be a good snack in the afternoon to bridge this gap? Truly you only need about 300 calories or less. So, looking at my graph that I use in my dietary primer for weight loss (shown in last week’s post “What Foods Make You Feel Satisfied Quicker and Longer?”) and then apply that knowledge to your snack or meal planning. Here’s a few solutions for our afternoon snack example:

1-Apple, whole

As a carbohydrate food, will last 1-1.5 hours in the body. That sounds good but isn’t really enough.

2-String Cheese

As a protein food, will last 3-hours in the body. That sounds like a good addition to the apple.


Do you need any more food at this point? Not really! These two items will definitely provide enough energy for the few hours you are trying to cover. However, many people add snack crackers and several other items which gets them into more than a 3-hour coverage, if for example they tend to eat a later dinner.

Look at the graph and imagine yourself picking your snacks or meals based upon the time you are trying to cover. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are all available to you at different times and covering this 5-hour period gives you enough energy to get to the next meal. Using all three macronutrients will give you the greatest coverage.

But don’t take my word for it, try this strategy yourself and see what you think. Take note of how hungry you are at various times of day and of what you ate that day. See if including more or less of one macronutrient makes a difference. Then share your results with us! We’d be curious to see how this strategy works for you!

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Rita Larsen Registered Dietitian at Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor

Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.

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