The time of day a person eats may help determine whether they can lose weight, new findings show.
Fasting from time to time or eating earlier in the day may help people lower their body mass by reducing their appetite, according to research published Wednesday in Obesity. This meal timing strategy seems to be a more successful weight loss method than just burning calories, the researchers say.
“Coordinating meals with circadian rhythms, or your body’s internal clock, may be a powerful strategy for reducing appetite and improving metabolic health,” Eric Ravussin, a researcher at Louisiana State University and study author, said in a news release.
The study included 11 overweight adults between ages 20 and 45 whose body mass indexes ranged from 25 and 35 kilograms and had body weight from 150 and 220 pounds. The bedtime for the participants ranged from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.
The researchers wanted to test the Early Time-Restricted Feeding strategy on study participants, which is designed to test a person’s metabolism flexibility. This gauges the ability to shift from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat for energy.
Participants attempted two meal timing techniques to lose weight. First, they ate at three meals in a 12-hour period, starting with an 8 a.m. breakfast and ending with an 8 p.m. dinner. Then, following the eTRF schedule, ate three meals during a six-hour window, starting with an 8 a.m. breakfast and ending with a 2 p.m. dinner. The second strategy gave the participants 18 hours to fast each day.
The participants followed each strategy for four days straight. On the last day of each regimen, the researchers measured the calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein each participant burned. They also measured the hunger hormones of the participants in the morning and afternoon, along with their appetite levels every three hours while they were awake.
While it didn’t help the participants to burn calories, the eTRF strategy did increase their ability to burn fat, while reducing their hunger hormones and appetite.
“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,” said Courtney M. Peterson, a researcher at University of Alabama at Birmingham and study lead author.