Tic-Toc -- When Is the Best Time to Eat?


Alarm Clock with Time for Lunch

For decades, weight loss strategies have mainly focused on the relationship of a person's caloric intake versus his or her daily energy expenditure. Simply stated, if you eat less and exercise more, you should lose weight. That is why so many fad diets are based on severely reducing the number of calories consumed while distracting the dieter with an array of useless requirements like only eating one particular food. As any nutritionist can confirm, this type of macronutrient distribution is not sustainable and potentially dangerous for your health and wellness.

Although many factors are known to influence the success of dietary intervention in weight loss, the timing of food intake is relatively new. Some scientists argue that a calorie is a calorie and it really does not matter when you consume them. Good news for those who prefer to skip breakfast, eat a light lunch and gorge on a dinner meal. But, not so fast. There is emerging research that suggests a relationship between the time foods are consumed and weight regulation in both humans and animals. To evaluate this concept, an internationally funded study was conducted to measure the physiological outcome of eating early versus eating late.

Four hundred and twenty men and women were grouped by the timing of their high-energy lunch meal based on eating his or her midday meal before or after 3 p.m. There was no significant difference in total energy intake (calories consumed) or energy expenditure (calories burned). The results of the 20-week study demonstrated that late lunch eaters lost less weight and displayed a slower rate of weight loss. Despite the lunchtime disparity, no differences were found in weight loss dependent on the timing of the participants' breakfast or dinner meals. However, in recent years, researchers have identified the presence of an active circadian clock in the body's adipose tissue.

Taking into account that eating is the primary source of energy for adipose tissue, the timing of high-energy content meals may have metabolic consequences for the development of obesity as well as weight loss. Naturally, more human studies are needed as weight loss has many variables. If you would like to learn more about effective weight loss strategies that are personalized for each individual's needs, contact the Metabolic Research Center nearest you. MRC has been helping clients lose weight and keep it off for more than 25 years.

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