This is the best time of day to eat if you want to lose weight

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JULY 6, 2023

Timing, it seems, is everything. Especially when it comes to food. From intermittent fasting to one-meal-a-day diets, to time-restricted eating. Yes you can control your calories but medical research shows that when you eat is as important as what you eat.

Time food.

In June a new study from the New York University School of Medicine showed that for people with high blood pressure and obesity, eating 80 per cent of their calories by 1pm reduced the amount of time their blood sugar was in the “high” range.

Lead author of the study Dr. Joanne Bruno said: “This type of intermittent fasting may prevent those with prediabetes and obesity from progressing to Type 2 diabetes.”

Experts in the emerging field of chrono-nutrition (the science of how food, metabolism, meal timing and your body clock interact) think this could result from eating in sync with our body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm.

Dr. Sarah Berry of King’s College London is the lead nutritional scientist for Predict – the world’s largest nutritional ongoing research program. She says: “Every cell in our body has a little clock, mainly driven by the light and dark cycle, but also by when we eat. We don’t fully understand all the mechanisms, but we know they impact hormones and how we metabolise food. There’s evidence to show that eating in line with your body clock will improve your metabolic health, inflammation and weight.”

Read on to find out how to eat in alignment with your internal clock to lose weight.

10am – Feast on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

Dr Berry’s research confirms the benefits of eating within a 10-hour window, eating no later than 8pm, and fasting for 14 hours overnight. Hence breakfast at 10am.

Researchers aren’t totally clear why this should be better for your metabolism. It could be that we evolved during hunter-gatherer days to eat during daylight. Whatever the reasons, one study by Surrey University showed that people consume fewer calories and lose weight when they shift breakfast to 1.5 hours later and eat dinner 1.5 hours earlier.

A high protein breakfast can help increase strength.

Our food choices and timings matter too. Studies from Japan have shown that eating protein at breakfast, like eggs and yogurt, was more likely to increase muscles and grip strength than eating it at dinner. Yet most Western breakfasts are heavy on carbs like pastries, cereal and bread and low on protein, which we generally eat at lunch and dinner.

Shigenobu Shibata, the lead researcher, says the evidence suggests less protein should be consumed in evening meals and more in morning meals. “Protein intake at breakfast averages about 15 grams, while at dinner we consume roughly 28 grams,” says Shibata. “Our findings strongly support changing this norm.”

Dr. Oliver Witard, senior lecturer in nutrition at King’s College London, agrees we need to eat protein for breakfast and throughout the day, particularly as we age and muscle mass declines: “When we eat protein we stimulate muscle synthesis, and that keeps our muscles healthy, but that synthesis only stays elevated for three hours, so we need to distribute protein evenly through the day. If we eat a lot of protein in one meal, much of it will be wasted as our bodies can’t absorb large amounts.”

1pm – Enjoy a large and leisurely lunch

Many of us have a tendency to eat a minimal breakfast in a rush, a light lunch and then a large dinner, often stuffed with carbs, like a plate of pasta. Yet eating slow-release carbs earlier in the day will help keep our blood sugar in check and stop us feeling hungry later. Research by the Predict programme has shown our blood sugar response to carbohydrates is lower in the morning and afternoon than it is at dinner, thanks to increased insulin sensitivity, which also means fewer calories are stored as fat. So do as the French and Italians do and have a large lunch and a smaller dinner.

Eating slow-release carbs such as sweet potato can stave off hunger later in the day – getty

We should also linger over our lunch. Research by Dr. Berry for the Zoe app shows that people who eat quickly have a higher BMI and consume on average 120 more calories a day than slow eaters.

“Eating speed is an untapped opportunity to modify how much you’re eating with minimal burden. I’d suggest putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, as it takes your gut 10-20 minutes after eating to signal that you’re full,” says Dr. Berry. “If you’re eating on the go then you’re bound to eat faster. So try not to rush lunch. And go for a quick walk after – even if it’s just along the office corridor – as that will also reduce the blood sugar response.”

6.45pm Time for a light but satisfying supper

“In the UK we’re busy during the day and by the evening we shut down our computers, and our bodies say ‘hello, it’s time to feed me’, because it’s the only time we have taken our foot off the gas. But if you’re not getting good nutrition throughout the day you’re more likely to eat fatty, salty and high carbohydrate foods for dinner, which can disrupt your sleep because your body is working hard to digest them, or it’s thirsty,” says Aisling Pigott, a registered dietitian.

A low-carb supper earlier in the evening is better for sleep than a high-carb meal – getty

But not only should we be eating a light, low-carb supper earlier in the evening, research has also shown that eating or snacking after 8pm can lead to worse blood sugar control, and then weight gain. Similarly, a study by Surrey University showed that people who finished their dinner after 8pm were more likely to wake up hungry, despite eating later at night.

A good night’s sleep is essential for weight control. We tend to snack and make poor food choices when we’re tired, perhaps because a poor night’s sleep will lead to a higher blood sugar and fat response, according to a study by King’s College London. “We know that if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep your blood sugar response to breakfast is more pronounced,” says Dr. Berry. So eat as early as possible and make the last meal your lightest. “But be practical. There is no way we can live a sociable life and do this all the time,” says Dr. Berry.


Courtesy/Source: The Telegraph