The timing of your meals might be just as important as the food you ingest, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity. The Spanish study found that people who ate very late lunches—after 3 pm—were unable to lose as much weight as those who chose to eat earlier.
The late lunchers lost 25% less weight than the study participants who ate lunch sometime before 3 pm. The study followed 420 people as they completed a weight-loss program.
Keep in mind that this was a study of Spanish eating habits, a culture in which a late lunch is generally the biggest meal of the day. In North America, the most calories per meal are usually consumed during dinner sometime after 4:30 pm, so the study cannot conclusively prescribe changes that should be made to American diets. However, there is value in switching our calorie-heavy meals to earlier in the day by eating a large breakfast and a more minimal dinner.
The timing of when you consume food can affect your metabolism and either encourage or detract from your body’s ability to keep off excess weight. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, most American’s eat about 3.5 meals of 70 calories or more per day. The addition of extra meals often means people are eating ‘second-dinners’ after they should be finished eating for the day. Not to mention any additional snacking that goes on throughout the day.
The problem with our modern schedule of eating large meals and snacks frequently throughout the day is that it can upset your metabolism by looping you into a state of constant craving. Your body can get used to snacking or consuming excess calories and will feel hungry faster if the constant flow of food is suddenly stopped or reduced.
Late night eating is a larger problem in America than late lunchtimes, but some people are able to eat later meals and manage their weight with exercise and reduced calories for dinner.