It’s never too late to start eating healthier, but researchers have found that the time of day you eat your main meal can have a significant impact on your overall weight.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the University of Murcia and Tufts University worked together to follow 420 overweight study participants through a 20-week weight loss program in Spain. Participants were divided into two groups: those who ate their largest meal of the day (lunch, in this culture) before 3:00 p.m. and those who waited until after 3:00 p.m.
As you can see in this chart, the two groups were just about even in their weight loss success over the first month of the study, but then the late eaters leveled off while early eaters continued to lose weight.
The study authors were surprised to find that the two groups’ energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones and sleep duration were very similar. This suggests the timing of the meal may have been responsible for the difference in weight loss. Researchers did find late eaters tended to stay up later, had less energetic breakfasts and skipped breakfast more often than early eaters.
If you’re trying to lose weight to kick off 2014, you may want to consider when you’re consuming the bulk of your calories in addition to the number of calories and your food choices. Adjusting your mealtime alone isn’t likely to make a big difference in your weight, but this study suggests paying attention to your timing could help you lose more while you’re following your weight loss plan.