Watching what one eats is an important part of most diets, but can the time of the meal also be an affecting factor? Researchers of a new study finds that adjusting breakfast and dinner times can actually increase weight loss.

When, Not Just What

With so many diet plans available for anyone to follow, people nowadays can have their pick of which one to try for optimal weight loss. Most of the diets, however, focus primarily on what a person eats or does not eat throughout the day or on what types of foods a person must focus on consuming. According to researchers of a new study, it is possible that the time at which a person eats a meal may be just as important as what a person eats when it comes to weight loss.

In a span of 10 weeks, participants of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Surrey were split into two groups: the control group had meals as they normally would, while another group, the time-restricted feeding (TRF) group, was required to delay breakfast by 90 minutes and advance dinner also by 90 minutes. Those TRF group was not limited when it comes to the food that they consumed as long as they adhered to the mealtime adjustments.

Participants were required to give blood samples and to complete a diet diary before and during the 10-week period and to answer a questionnaire right after the study. By the end of the study period, researchers found that, on average, those in the TRF group lost twice as much body fat compared to those in the control group.

Feasible For Real Life Diets?

Interestingly, researchers noticed that those on the TRF group ate less food compared to those in the control group, with 57 percent of the TRF participants reporting lesser food intake due to factors such as reduced appetite, lesser eating opportunities, and reduced snacking particularly at night.

It is not certain what exactly caused the increased body fat loss, but it is possible the reduced amount of snacking time between meals may have contributed to the body fat loss. Another possible explanation could be that the time of the day in which the meals were eaten were times of the day when the body burns food at a faster metabolic rate.

Fascinating as the results were, is this diet actually feasible for everyday life? Interestingly, even if the researchers described the participants in the TRF group as well-motivated, 57 percent of participants said that they could not follow the TRF schedule beyond the 10-week period, as it is incompatible with family and social life, while the other 43 percent said they could follow through if the times were a bit more flexible.

“Although this study is small, it has provided us with invaluable insight into how slight alterations to our meal times can have benefits to our bodies,” said Dr. Jonathan Johnston of the University of Surrey, lead author of the study. “However, as we have seen with these participants, fasting diets are difficult to follow and may not always be compatible with family and social life. We therefore need to make sure they are flexible and conducive to real life, as the potential benefits of such diets are clear to see.”

The study is published in the Journal of Nutritional Science.

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