Changing the timing of meals can double weight loss, without dieting or exercise.
Eating earlier in the day helps lower people’s appetite, which encourages weight loss, new research finds.
Shifting meals slightly earlier can also help people burn more fat — again, without restricting diet.
A variety of different approaches to meal timings can be effective for weight loss.
One approach is simply to shift breakfast 90 minutes later and eat dinner 90 minutes earlier each day.
One study has shown that changing mealtimes can double the loss in body fat.
Another approach, tested in the latest study, called Early Time-Restricted Feeding (eTRF), involves eating dinner in the afternoon.
Three meals are eaten between 8am and 2pm, then nothing for the rest of the day.
Effectively, this means fasting for 18 hours per day, from 2pm to 8am the next day.
The study involved 11 people who followed this diet and then a more normal pattern of eating dinner at 8pm.
The results showed that restricted eating lowered people’s appetite and levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Eating dinner at 2pm also burned more fat than eating at 8pm.
The study helps show that losing weight and maintaining the loss is about more than just what is eaten — it is also about when it is eaten.
Dr Eric Ravussin, the study’s first author, said:
“Coordinating meals with circadian rhythms, or your body’s internal clock, may be a powerful strategy for reducing appetite and improving metabolic health.”
Meal timing strategies can be beneficial, Dr Courtney M. Peterson, study co-author, concluded:
“We suspect that a majority of people may find meal timing strategies helpful for losing weight or to maintain their weight since these strategies naturally appear to curb appetite, which may help people eat less.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Obesity (Ravussin et al., 2019).