What time of day do you consume the bulk of your daily caloric intake? Do you graze throughout the day, consuming multiple small meals and snacks? Is your appetite slow to get going, but voracious in the afternoon and evening? Or do you follow the adage, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper?”
We all know the bottom line in weight management is all about balancing calories consumed vs. calories burned. However, new research supports the idea that you may burn more calories if you consume them earlier in the day. Here’s why:
Apparently, our bodies are meant to fast for about 12 hours, i.e. when it’s dark out. When you wake up, your metabolism is at its lowest point of the day. By eating a solid meal within an hour of waking, you will effectively jump-start your metabolism and let your body know that your day has begun. That done, your body will go on to use calories and nutrients more efficiently throughout the day.
If you are one of those people who just isn’t hungry first thing in the morning, take a look at what you ate the latter half of the previous day. How much and what did you eat after 8 pm? And if you prefer to eat a later dinner, say 9 or 10 pm, what are you eating around 5:30 or 6 to stave off those hunger pangs? Some argue that Europeans generally eat later and don’t have nearly the same problem with obesity seen in America. Yet remember that Europeans traditionally eat a larger midday meal, and we should also take into consideration their level of activity (i.e. walking vs. driving) and their food choices (the Mediterranean diet).
Being a night owl just might make it more difficult to lose weight. The International Journal of Obesity reported that people who stay up late consume an average of 248 more calories per day than their counterparts that get to bed earlier. So if you tend to stay up late, try adjusting your sleep/wake cycle back an hour or so.
Remember my earlier blog post that described willpower as a muscle that can be exhausted and effectively used up throughout the day? Our willpower isn’t the same at the end of the day, so we are more apt to make bad food choices, and give into glucose-replenishing sweets and starches.
On the other hand, sleep replenishes your glucose, and when a new day dawns, you’re much more likely to eat a healthy breakfast. Even if you’re not in the mood for typical morning fare, remember that starting your day with breakfast will set you up to metabolize your food more efficiently throughout the day.
One last tip – if you’re tempted, as we all are, to eat less-than-healthy food in the hours before bedtime, try postponing gratification. Tell yourself that if you pass on the brownies now, you can have them for breakfast. Shocked? Well, it’s better than eating them at the end of the day, and surely, once you have the clean slate of the day ahead of you, you’re probably going to make a healthier choice than brownies for breakfast.
NPR.org. Blog, The Salt: What’s On Your Plate, “To Maximize Weight Loss, Eat Early in the Day, Not Late”
Yahoo Health. “Eat Breakfast Like a King”
Health.com. “Can You Eat Late and Still Lose Weight?”