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Meal Timing for Weight Loss

Eating breakfast and forgoing late-night nibbling may be a key to weight loss success.

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Food timing

With respect to weight management, we now have more proof that it’s not just what we eat that matters but also when we take in our calories. Published in PLOS Biology, research conducted at Vanderbilt University showed that our daily biological clock may regulate how our food is metabolized; fat-burning levels change depending on the time of day.

Using a random crossover experimental study design, investigators monitored the metabolism of adults in a whole-room respiratory chamber over two separate 56-hour sessions. In each session, lunch and dinner were presented at 12:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m., respectively, but the timing of the third meal differed between the two trials. In one of the 56-hour bouts, the additional meal was presented as breakfast (8 a.m.); in the other, a nutritionally equivalent meal was presented to the same subjects as a late-evening snack (10 p.m.).

Whereas the two sessions did not differ in the amount or type of food eaten or in the subjects’ activity levels, more calories consumed later in the day resulted in less fat being burned. This suggests that meal timing affects the extent to which ingested food is used, rather than added to fat stores, and that it might be a good idea for weight management purposes to eat less after sunset in favor of feasting at daybreak.

See also: Nibbling, Fasting and Feasting: Myths About Meal Timing and Frequency

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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