Though it should come as no surprise that eating earlier in the day can help you lose weight, recent studies published in the International Journal of Obesity have found the results to be even more clear. Carried out by researchers at Spain’s University of Murcia, Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Tufts University in Medford, Mass., 420 overweight men and women participated in a study proving that eating earlier in the day, specifically lunch, can provide a clear benefit to losing weight.
The participants monitored during a 20 week period were restricted to 1,400 calories a day. Researchers found that on average, those who ate early in the day lost an average of 22 pounds, while the late eaters comparably lost 17 pounds.
“This was the first long-term large-scale study to really demonstrate that the timing of meals can predict weight-loss effectiveness,” said one of the study’s authors Frank Scheer, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program and associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “But it all makes sense,” Scheer told Allison Aubrey on NPR, “and that the effects of sleep and biological clocks have long been known to affect weight regulation in animals” (1).
“When the timing of meals doesn’t match with the sleep-wave cycle, there is a disconnect between the different clocks we have in, basically, all the cells in our body,” he explained to Aubrey (1).
The surprise does not come in the conclusion of the study – as there have been many studies prior alluding to the fact that people wanting to lose weight should avoid eating late at night – but how clear the conclusion appears to be in regards to the time people eat during the day and its correlation with losing weight. The only real difference between the participants in the study was when they ate. Amount of exercise, hunger levels, or sleeping habits had almost no impact on the individuals.
The study also found that participants who were the late eaters tended to skimp on breakfast more frequently than those who were the early eaters.
“What the study does is that it emphasizes that we should start thinking not only about what we eat but also when we eat,” Scheer noted. “It may be that we can improve, using this novel concept, existing dietary interventions in the battle against obesity.”
Prior research has shown that our metabolism is at its maximum efficiency during the day, so our body has energy to work and perform day-time activities. However, our metabolism slows down quite a bit at night, so we’re not burning as many calories as we are during the day. This usually results in weight gain.
1. Greenfield, Beth. “Eat Early, Shed Weight, Spanish Study Says.” Shine. (2013): n. page. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.