Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Do Late Lunches Mean Less Weight Loss?

Does your lunch time affect weight loss?
Does your lunch time affect weight loss?
Image: Shutterstock
A new study from the International Journal of Obesity hassuggested that those who eat lunch earlier in the day may have better successwith weight loss than those who eat later. The study surveyed a total of 420 people in a weight loss program and found that those who regularly ate lunch before 3 p.m. lost about 25% more weight than those who ate later.

As someone who snacks about every three hours, with slightly larger snacks around breakfast and lunch, missing meals isn’t something I often do. My body is used to having small, constant amounts of food coming in to refuel it—so a late lunch is pretty miserable for me. But others don’t have the same routine as I do—my boss regularly waits until after three to eat and even then it’s just a bowl of ramen noodles (sodium and carbs). For those or you who find yourselves relating to her, I wanted to discuss the implications of eating late.

3 p.m. lunch may bee too long of a wait.
Image: Shutterstock

Numerous studies have been done over the years on the effect of meal times and sizes. Some suggest that the biggest meal should be breakfast, and meals should gradually decline in size, making dinner the smallest. Other studies say that eating every three hours is best for our bodies, as it keeps meals small and generally lighter than a heaping platter. But none of these studies have definitively nailed down the single best pattern. And that includes this one.

When reading into studies, make sure to keep in mind all the variable factors. One such factor to consider is how much time the participants were going between meals. This study doesn’t chart that, but it’s an important consideration to make. One thing we do know about meal times is that when we go too long in between meals, it can affect the metabolism, slowing it and hindering weight loss.

Try spacing your meals equally so your body doesn't go into "starvation" mode
A cute lunch box is essential in life!
Participants also likely had other different behaviors, including the comparison between calories consumed and burned. Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to higher rates of obesity and lower success in weight loss. The researchers themselves have recognized that these findings are preliminary and require further research to determine how much meal-timing influences weight loss.

Certainly, it’s not a bad idea to space your meals out equally and keep your body from going into “starvation” mode. But how much of an impact it actually has remains to be seen. Eating right and exercising regularly are still kings of the weight-loss world.