It has always been thought that to optimise weight loss, the biggest meals should be taken earlier in the day – the old ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’ adage, but new research appears to have taken this one step further.
‘Early Time Restricted Feeding’ involves eating the last meal of the day no later than 2pm, and then not eating until breakfast time the following morning. Early findings – presented at an Obesity Society meeting in New Orleans – indicated that this approach really could help people to burn energy and fat, and also reduce hunger pangs. Clearly, these would be two major factors in successful weight loss.
Dr Courtney Peterson, who headed the research team, believes that eating only within this specific, small period of time would help in the process of losing weight. This is mainly achieved by maximising the fat and protein burnt by the body. By eating only during an early six-hour window, then fasting for 18 hours, as opposed to eating throughout the usual 12-hour day, the study found that more fat was burnt but – and this is equally important – the appetite wasn’t affected.
It has long been believed that the so-called ‘body clock’ functions in such a way that the metabolism is at its peak and thus most effective early in the day, becoming more sluggish later on and resting overnight. It therefore stands to reason that eating dinner earlier, or perhaps not eating dinner at all, could have a beneficial effect on health – and would certainly be more effective for losing weight than missing breakfast.
Dr Peterson’s research – the first of Early Time Restricted Feeding on humans, having already seen positive results on rodents – took eleven overweight people. They spent four days eating between the hours of 8am and 2pm, then four days eating throughout the American average 12-hour day of 8am to 8pm. These people all ate the same calorific amount. The results seem conclusive: the burning of fat and protein was improved, and hunger pangs were reduced.
Timing could be everything
It seems, then, that the timing of eating during the day could be just as important as the amount of calories consumed in order to facilitate weight loss. Working with the body’s own metabolism could potentially help to treat – and indeed prevent – the obesity and weight problems prevalent in America today.