Dear Dr. Mo: I’ve put my self on a weight loss program by combining advice and ideas from your posts. My largest meal has always been lunch and I figured to move it earlier in the day. I would like to know if timing of this meal would make any difference in my diet? Does a timing affect weight loss outcome?
Dear reader: Your hunch that eating your largest meal – lunch – earlier in the day would be better for your weight loss efforts is very accurate.
Data from a relatively recently published large-scale prospective study on the subject proves this to be the case.
The study had followed 400 overweight adults for 20 weeks and demonstrated that timing of meals predicted weight loss effectiveness; the results were published on January 29, 2013 in the International Journal of Obesity.
The results indicated that late eaters displayed a slower weight-loss rate and lost significantly less weight than early eaters, suggesting that the timing of large meals could be an important factor in a weight loss program of any kind. (Read about how social interactions affect our eating habits and weight.)
Those who ate later also had lower estimated insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Late eaters in this study were much more likely to skip breakfast altogether, driving their bodies into energy saving mode and overeating later in the day: all very bad news for weight loss.
In my experience, this applies to late eaters in general and this study had nicely captured such behaviors.
What I can tell you is that in addition to the total amount of calories you consume in a day and the types of food you eat, the timing of your large meals plays a significant role in weight regulation.
North American diets (unlike Mediterranean ones for example) tend to go heavy on dinners while lunches remain fairly light in comparison so it is not very clear how these results would apply in such cases. What is clear however is that our breakfasts should be strong and rich and dinners light with our lunches somewhere in between and earlier in the day (before 3 pm according to study).
I wish you success!
Yours in health,