When it comes to weight loss, a new study suggests that when you eat could be just as important as what you eat. Study participants who ate larger meals later in the day lost less weight than those who ate their largest meal earlier.
Study participants were split into two groups: those who ate lunch before 3 p.m. and those who ate lunch after 3 p.m. Over the course of the study, those who ate lunch earlier lost 25% more weight than the late eaters.
It’s important to note that the study was conducted in Spain, where lunch is usually the largest meal of the day, rather than in the US, where most people eat a lighter lunch and a larger dinner. But the some of the same conclusions can be drawn: Eating at irregular times can affect your liver and pancreas, having an overall impact on your metabolism. And the body is better able to metabolize carbohydrates earlier in the day — so a big, carb-heavy meal eaten later in the day won’t be processed as well by the body.
One other link noted in the study is that people who eat more meals later in the day often tend to skip breakfast, which can have a negative impact on metabolism and cause people to overeat at lunch and dinner. Another study is in the works to further clarify the possible impact of eating larger meals later in the day.
In any case, it’s a good idea to contemplate the effects on our bodies of what we eat and when we eat it. Some experts recommend the “King, Prince, Pauper” rule: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. This can help to optimize your diet so that your body gets most of its calories at the times of day when it’s best able to metabolize them.