The study, which was released on Tuesday, was conducted in Spain, where the majority of people have their main meal at lunch time.
The study looked at the way eating times affected 420 overweight participants. All of the subjects had similar sleep patterns, calorie intake and hormone levels ghrelin and leptin, which stimulate hunger. They were split into two groups; one group ate their main meal before 3 p.m. and one who ate later.
After the 20 week trial period, the weight loss of each group was compared and results showed that the people who ate their main meal before 3 p.m. lost more weight than late-lunchers.
It was also noted that the calorie intake for both groups was similar for the rest of the day. However, late eaters tended to eat less for breakfast or skip breakfast altogether, supporting the view that those who skip breakfast are more likely to eat more later in the day.
What Does It Mean?
As the study was conducted amongst Spanish participants, who tend to eat 40% of their calories at their mid-day meal, it is hard to compare this study with American eating habits, where the majority of the population tend to have their main meal in the evening.
However, the study does support other research that indicates that people who eat very late tend to have poorer sleeping habits than those who eat earlier.
What Can You Do?
If you are trying to lose weight by skipping breakfast and lunch, or eating as little as possible during the day to reduce your calorie intake, you are more likely to eat more without realizing it in the evening. This could hinder weight loss in a number of ways. Your metabolism will not be steady and constant, as your body will not be sure when its next meal is, meaning that when you do eat your main meal, you will metabolise it more slowly so that it lasts longer. You are likely to compensate for the lack of food in the day by eating up to 30% more calories in your main meal if you eat late. Additionally, eating late can affect your sleep, which, in turn, can affect hormone production, making you feel hungrier.
Culturally it may not be possible to eat your main meal in the middle of the day. But you can make sure that you have a good breakfast, a healthy lunch which isn’t always based around carbohydrates such as bread, and a healthy evening meal. A healthy snack, such as fruit, carrot sticks or nuts mid-morning and afternoon can help to keep your metabolism high and stave off the cravings for fatty foods, such as chips and chocolate.
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