DIET AND FITNESS:

Does It Matter When You Eat?
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Last updated February 19, 2017 (originally published April 14, 2013)

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist



Struggling to lose weight and not sure why? Could eating a
big meal at 8PM be the reason? Or having your breakfast at
midday? We’re told what to eat, how much to eat, and now
when to eat – apparently the timing of your meals affects
how much weight you gain and how healthy you are. Oprah
Winfrey declared the secret to weight loss was not eating
"anything, not even a grape, after 7pm" but does it really
matter when you eat? Surely calories are calories, at any
time of the day?

The food, calorie and exercise equation is difficult to solve.
Weight gain is complicated and we still don’t know exactly
why some people gain weight while others don’t. Nor do we
know why health problems associated with diet strike some
and not others. Is calorie intake only one factor among
many, including the timing of our meals? A field of research
called "chronotherapy" times medical treatments to
correspond to our circadian rhythms or body clocks, so why
not time our food intake, say experts?

What's becoming increasingly clear is that having access to
food and snacking 24/7 may not be good for our health, no
matter how little or how much we consume.

A 2012 study from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
says when mice are restricted to being able to eat for just
eight hours a day they eat the same amount as mice with
food access 24/7 but they don’t put on as much weight and
they were protected from certain metabolic problems.

When people eat throughout the day and night, researchers
say, metabolic cycles that are critical to glucose production
and other functions are thrown off.


[Update:
More recently, scientists from Vrije University Amsterdam
and King's College London looked at how eating at irregular
times affects our risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and
cardiovascular disease.

They concluded that eating at regular times is as important
as what you eat to your health.

As the 2016 study concluded, "consuming meals regularly
for 2 weeks v. an irregular meal pattern, led to beneficial
impact on cardiometabolic risk factors as lower peak insulin,
lower fasting total and LDL-cholesterol, both in lean and
obese women."]


When it comes to weight gain, is the time you eat just as
important as what you eat? We looked into the scientific
research to see if breakfast, lunch and dinner times should
be prescribed for weight loss.

When Is The Best Time To Eat Breakfast?






























You need to listen to your Mom – it seems breakfast is
indeed the most important meal of the day.

Skipping breakfast has been linked to obesity, more calories
consumed during the day, low cognitive function, diabetes
and a host of other health problems.

A 2010 study from Menzies Research Institute, University of
Tasmania, Australia showed people who skipped breakfast
through childhood and adulthood had bigger waists, higher
insulin levels, and higher total and LDL cholesterol than
those who regularly ate breakfast.

And researchers at the US Department of Agriculture,
Agricultural Research Service, and Children's Nutrition
Research Center, 2010, said children who skipped breakfast
had higher BMI-for age scores and bigger waists, and were
more likely to be obese than those that ate cereal or another
breakfast meal each day.

But when is the best time for breakfast?  Eating within one
hour of getting up jump-starts the metabolism, according to
a 2012 report from the Duke Diet & Fitness Center at Duke
University Medical School. If you leave breakfast until later,
or you don’t eat it at all, you are effectively fasting for up to
20 hours, which results in a slowed-down fat metabolism
process.

How Many Times a Day Should You Eat?

After eating a low-fat breakfast, what’s the plan for the rest
of the day? Small meals every two hours or three meals a
day?

There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the idea that
eating six small meals a day is better than the traditional
breakfast, lunch and dinner pattern for weight loss and good
health. Advocates of the six-a-day routine say that eating
every three hours and stopping eating three hours before
bed increases your metabolism and decreases your appetite.
But others are not so sure.

There are no reliable studies that either prove or disprove
the six-meals-a-day theory. Some people find they gain
weight when they eat more often (after all, the more times
you sit down to eat the more opportunities you have to eat
high-fat foods or to overeat) while others feel more
energized and less hungry.

Eat at Regular Times

Rather than concentrating on the number of times you eat,
many experts suggest making sure you don’t skip meals –
eat at regular times throughout the day whether that is
three, five or six times.

Why? Feeding the body at regular intervals sends signals to
your body that it doesn’t need to store calories or enter
starvation mode.

In other words,
be predictable. Your body will thank you for
it and not hang on to calories.

The opposite --- being unpredictable --- can have negative
effects. For example, a 2008 study from the Karolinska
Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden showed that people eating at
irregular times were at greater risk of developing
metabolic
syndrome and insulin resistance. The study looked at more
than 4,000 60-year-old men and women.

Should Lunch be Your Biggest Meal?

So if you stick to a regular pattern of meals throughout the
day, should your biggest meal be at lunchtime or dinnertime?

Earlier rather than later is best, according to experts,
meaning lunch – an early lunch – should be your biggest
meal. A 2013 study led by Professor Marta Garaulet of the
University of Murcia, Spain divided 420 adults who were on a
weight-loss program into two groups – people eating their
main meal before 3pm and people eating their main meal
later than 3pm.

Twenty weeks later, the early eaters lost up to 25 percent
more weight than those who ate later, even though the two
groups ate roughly the same amount of calories.

Researchers suspect the findings could be due to our
internal biological clock, which deals with food differently at
different times of the day. While this study looked at lunch
(traditionally the main meal of the day for Spaniards), could
the outcome be worse for those of us who eat our biggest
meal of the day after we get home from work at 6pm or
even 8pm? Further studies are needed but the evidence
suggests this to be true.

When Should You Stop Eating Before Bed?  

Continue reading  page 1  
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