If you’ve been indulging in big breakfasts and tiny dinners in pursuit of weight loss, a new study has some bad news. Loading up on calories early in the day doesn’t appear to help when it comes to shedding extra pounds.
The notion that eating a big breakfast in the morning and then smaller portions in the evening can promote weight loss makes sense on the surface.
If one takes in most of their calories early, they’ll have all day to burn them off. This research, which focused on overweight adults dealing with diabetes or pre-diabetes, ultimately didn’t end up supporting that theory.
This 12-week study concludes time-restricted eating (limiting most of one’s daily calories to a specific time of day) does not have an impact on weight one way or the other, at least among studied participants. All study subjects ate the same daily amount of food for the duration of the experiment, but one group of participants ate most of their calories before 1 P.M., while another group ate 50% of their daily calories after 5 P.M.
“We have wondered for a long time if when one eats during the day affects the way the body uses and stores energy,” says study author Nisa M. Maruthur, M.D., M.H.S., associate professor of medicine, epidemiology, and nursing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, in a release. “Most prior studies have not controlled the number of calories, so it wasn’t clear if people who ate earlier just ate fewer calories. In this study, the only thing we changed was the time of day of eating.”
A total of 41 adults took part in this study. Most (90%) were African-American women, and the average subject was aged 59 years old at the time of the experiment. Among that group of 41, 21 adults were assigned to the time-restricted eating condition (taking in 80% of their daily calories in the morning). The other 20 participants ate on a more usual schedule. Each person’s weight and blood pressure were taken at the start of the experiment, four weeks in, eight weeks in, and after the full 12 weeks.
The results were quite clear. It isn’t about when you eat, but what you eat. All of the participants had been given a healthy, nutritious diet throughout the study. Subsequently, adults from both experimental groups showed weight loss and decreased blood pressure – regardless of when they had been eating their meals.
“We thought that the time-restricted group would lose more weight,” Dr. Maruthur adds. “Yet that didn’t happen. We did not see any difference in weight loss for those who ate most of their calories earlier versus later in the day. We did not see any effects on blood pressure either.”
So, instead of loading up on bacon, eggs, and pancakes in the morning and going with a salad for dinner, a better idea would be to eat healthy across all of your daily meals and snacks. It’s easier said than done, but there are few shortcuts when it comes to nutrition. After all, you are what you eat.
This research is set to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.