Eat Earlier, Lose Weight

Having trouble losing weight? Try this.

Make breakfast or lunch rather than dinner your biggest meal of the day.

Recent studies suggest that shifting eating to earlier in the day can help you lose weight. Without having to cut or count calories.

Overweight or obese volunteers in California were eating-restricted to 10 hours per day for 16 weeks. Volunteers could eat whatever they wanted during the 10-hour daily feeding window. After 16 weeks, the participants lost an average of 3.3 kg (7.3 lb). This amount of weight loss persisted for one year. Participants reported better sleep, less hunger at bedtime, and greater energy compared to baseline. In a more recent study, obese persons in Chicago were food-restricted to the 8-hour period between 10 am and 6 pm. Over a 12-week period ate 2.6 percent fewer calories and lost 2.6 percent more weight than a matched historical control group. This in spite of subjects in the time-restricted eating group eating as much as they wanted of whatever they wanted during the eating window.

A study in Israel with overweight and obese women produced similar results. Overweight and obese women were randomly assigned to one of two weight-loss diets. Women with Diet 1 consumed 50, 36, and 14 percent of their daily calories at breakfast, lunch and dinner, respectively. Women with Diet 2 consumed 14, 36, and 50 percent of their daily calories at breakfast, lunch and dinner, respectively. Both diets had 1,400 calories per day. Subjects in Diet 1 had significantly greater weight loss, lower waist circumference, more healthful levels of fasting glucose, fasting insulin, homeostatic assessment index for insulin, triglyceride, and lower hunger than the other women.

These surprising results may reflect daily (circadian) rhythms of metabolism that govern, among other things, whether we burn or build fat in our body. While the details have yet to be worked out, studies of lab animals and now humans strongly indicate that moving consumption of food, especially fat and protein, to earlier in the day promotes better health. The photo shows what I typically eat for lunch—a lot of veggies and fruit complemented with hummus, almond butter, yoghurt, and bran. Skipping breakfast to cut calories appears to be totally counterproductive. It almost sounds magical: Eat the same number of daily calories as you do now, but shift them towards breakfast and lunch and away from dinner—and lose weight. Why not give it a try?

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