A new study by Dr. Frank Scheer (Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston) and colleagues has discovered that fat and weight loss may not only be determined by what you eat, but exactly WHEN you eat it as well.
It has often been said that in order to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, one should eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince and eat dinner like a pauper – ie, gradually eating smaller meals throughout the day.
The study found that of the 420 people monitored over 20 weeks, those who ate a larger meal later in the day were less likely to lose weight. On average, eating the largest meal of the day before 3pm prompted a 25% greater weight loss than eating the largest meal after 3pm.
No difference was found when altering the timing of earlier meals.
Dr Scheer also notes that most of the cells in your body run on a 24 hour clock, and perform different functions at different times. Disrupted or insufficient sleep confuses the system, leading to the body working inefficiently.
The brain may also get out of sync with the rest of the body, which according to Dr Scheer, “could lead to abnormal weight gain or a decrease in weight loss.”
Dr Scheer goes on to say that the body is better able to deal with high glucose levels in the morning – meaning that later meals should contain fewer carbohydrates to be dealt with properly.
Whilst not a conclusive study – the results are observational – other studies have shown that getting a good night of sleep to be beneficial to weight and fat loss. A well rested body is less likely to crave things that are bad for you, and as Dr Scheer notes brain and body clock synchronisation is important.
A further item to consider is that it may not be the total amount of time sleeping that is important, but at what stage during your sleep cycles you wake up. During sleep, you go through repeated cycles of several different stages, with each cycle lasting 90 minutes. If you wake up at 45 minutes, you are more likely to feel tired as the cycle was disrupted. It is often found that allowing a certain amount of time to fall asleep and waking up at a time that coincides with a multiple of 90 minutes late works best – for example, should you go to bed at 10:45pm and fall asleep by 11pm (most people fall asleep within 12-15 minutes), waking up at 6:30am would most likely make you feel better than waking up at 7am, as 6:30am is 90 minutes x 5 later.
An online sleep calculator can be found here: http://sleepyti.me/
One further thing to bear in mind is that this study does not make mention of those working during the night – it assumes a routine of sleeping when it is dark outside and being awake during the daytime. It may be discovered that these results relate to the time of day, or alternatively to the amount of time since the individual wakes up.