Can changing your meal schedule help you lose body fat?

January 9, 2017 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Can changing your meal schedule help you lose body fat?

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers are trying to find out whether changing a person's eating schedule can help them lose weight and burn fat.

For the first time in humans, it has been reported that “early time-restricted feeding” can reduce hunger and influence the 24-hour pattern of fat burning, which may help lose weight. The findings were unveiled during a presentation at The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at Obesity Week 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

What is early time-restricted feeding?

With eTRF, people eat only during a much smaller window of time than we are typically used to. People eat their last meal by the mid-afternoon and do not eat again until breakfast the next morning.

The researchers found that eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. followed by an 18-hour daily fast kept appetite levels more even throughout the day, in comparison to eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., which is what the average North American does.

This new research suggests that eating a very early dinner, or even skipping dinner, may have some benefits for losing weight, although further studies are needed to confirm that theory. Previous animal studies showed that eTRF helped rodents burn more fat.

Eating in concert with our internal clock may benefit weight loss

The human body has an internal clock, and many aspects of metabolism are at their optimal functioning in the morning. Therefore, eating in alignment with the body's circadian clock by eating earlier in the day may positively influence health. This first test of eTRF in humans follows rodent studies which previously found that eTRF reduced body fat and decreased the risk of chronic diseases in rodents.

About the study

During the human study, the research team followed 11 overweight men and women over four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., and four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Participants tried both eating schedules, ate the same number of calories both times and completed all testing under supervision.

Researchers then tested the impact of eTRF on calories burned, fat burned and appetite.

Researchers found that, although eTRF did not affect how many total calories participants burned, it reduced daily hunger swings and increased fat burning during several hours at night. It also improved metabolic flexibility, which is the body's ability to switch between burning carbs and burning fats.

Whether eTRF helps with long-term weight loss or improves other aspects of health is still unknown. Because the study involved only a small number of participants, a larger, more comprehensive study will need to take place.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

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