If you are looking to shed some kilos, then timing your meals could aid in losing weight. Meal timing strategies such as intermittent fasting or eating earlier in the daytime appear to help people lose weight by lowering appetite rather than burning more calories, finds a study.
The study published in the journal Obesity showed how meal timing affects 24-hour energy metabolism when food intake and meal frequency are matched.
“Coordinating meals with circadian rhythms, or your body’s internal clock, maybe a powerful strategy for reducing appetite and improving metabolic health,” said Eric Ravussin, one of the study’s authors.
“We suspect that a majority of people may find meal timing strategies helpful for losing weight or to maintain their weight since these strategies seem to naturally appetite, which may help people eat less,” said Courtney M. Peterson, lead author of the study.
Peterson and her colleagues also report that meal timing strategies may help people burn more fat on average during a 24-hour period.
Early Time-Restricted Feeding (eTRF)–a form of daily intermittent fasting where dinner is eaten in the afternoon–helped to improve people’s ability to switch between burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat for energy, an aspect of metabolism known as metabolic flexibility.
For the study, researchers enrolled 11 adult men and women who had excess weight.
Participants were recruited between November 2014 and August 2016. Adults, in general, good health, aged 20-to-45-years old, were eligible to participate if they had a body mass index between 25 and 35 kg/m2 (inclusive), body weight between 68 and 100 kg, a regular bedtime between 9:30 p.m. and 12 a.m., and for women, a regular menstrual cycle.
Participants tried two different meal timing strategies in random order: a control schedule where participants ate three meals during a 12-hour period with breakfast at 8:00 am and dinner at 8:00 pm, and an eTRF schedule where participants ate three meals over a six-hour period with breakfast at 8:00 am and dinner at 2:00 pm.
The same amounts and types of foods were consumed on both schedules. Fasting periods for the control schedule included 12 hours per day, while the eTRF schedule involved fasting for 18 hours per day.
Study participants followed the different schedules for four days in a row. On the fourth day, researchers measured the metabolism of participants by placing them in a respiratory chamber–a room-like device–where researchers measured how many calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein were burned.
Researchers also measured the appetite levels of participants every three hours while they were awake, as well as hunger hormones in the morning and evening.
Although eTRF did not significantly affect how many calories participants burned, the researchers found that eTRF did lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and improved some aspects of appetite. It also increased fat-burning over the 24-hour day.