Is late-eating stalling your weight loss?

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By Rod Navajas

I won’t beat around the bush with the answer this time, so here it goes: Is late eating stalling your weight loss? Quite possibly! 

Let’s dive straight in.

In a scientific study from October 2022, researchers aimed to answer the questions above. And for those who tend to eat most of their meals later in the day, the answer was not encouraging. 

Study design

The study is quite remarkable because participants had to live in the lab for a few days. This allows researchers to control for a lot of variables that could potentially influence the results. One variable being the food that the participants consumed and the meal times. All meals were provided and their consumption was supervised by the researchers who ensured that the meals were consumed within 30 minutes of being provided.

Another variable well controlled was the participants sleep schedule. Basically, they were given 8hs in a dark room and 16hs in bright light with a constant schedule throughout the study.  Physical activity was also controlled during the study. 

To test the effects of different meal schedule, participants were divided into 2 groups (see Fig 1):

1. Early Meal Schedule, where they consumed 3 meals early in the day, with the first meal being consumed 1h after waking and the last meal with 6hs before bedtime

2. Late Meal Schedule, where participants consumed 3 meals late in the day, with the first meal being consumed 5hs after waking and the last meal with 2hs before bedtime. 

Fig 1. Early Meal Schedule x Late Meal Schedule groups

After a washout period, participants then swapped groups so the response of each subject could be compared between the 2 protocols. 

Eating late not good for weight loss…

Here are the main findings:

1. Late-eating increases waketime hunger

2. Late-eating decreases waketime energy expenditure

3. Late-eating promotes fat storage

So, the late-eating group was hungrier, burning less calories and were optimised to store fat. What a horrible outcome if you are trying to lose body fat! 

Although this was a short-term study and researchers did not measure body composition (meaningful changes in body composition takes time), we can assume that if this pattern is maintained over a long period of time, the summation effect would be fat gain

What does that mean to you?

The conclusion? Time matters! 

At Fitness Lab, we always talk about layers when it comes down to nutrition. We should aim to progressively improve our nutrition habits by slowly improving one layer at a time

In the hierarchy of priorities, timing is not right at the top. But it is definitely a layer that needs attention once higher priorities have been addressed.

If you want to improve your body composition and don’t know where to start, talk to one of our coaches.

Our team is made up of Personal Trainers, Exercise Scientists and Nutritionists, so you can be sure you will be in good professional hands. 

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