Weight loss: It’s not just what you eat, but when

Eating your biggest meal early in the day can help speed weight loss — and maybe even stave off insulin resistance, a predictor of diabetes, according to a study published Jan. 29 in the International Journal of Obesity.

Researchers from three collaborating universities conducted the study, which involved 420 overweight participants who followed a 20-week weight-loss treatment program in Spain. The study participants self-selected the timing of their main meal of the day, either before or after 3 p.m. They ate 40 percent of their total daily calories at this meal.

Those who ate their big meal after 3 p.m. lost significantly less weight than those who ate earlier in the day, plus they lost that weight more slowly and had lower estimated insulin sensitivity, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

The timing of their other, smaller meals didn’t seem to play a role in weight loss, according to researchers, but late eaters were more likely to skip breakfast or eat fewer calories at their first meal. For a fuller explanation, check out this article.

Takeaway: eat most of your calories earlier in the day! Although we don’t know the exact mechanisms at work here (researchers also looked at sleep, total calorie intake, and the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin — but none of them seemed to play a role), it kind of makes sense: if you eat your calories early in the day you have more chance of burning them off during the day.

What’s the old saying? Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, supper like a pauper. Sounds like great advice!

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Brewer-based personal trainer and author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at wendyfitness.com.