The Surprising Trick to Losing Weight

Drop excess pounds by learning the right time to eat

when to eat to lose weight

Photo by: Rohit Seth/iStock

It was long thought that a calorie was a calorie and it didn’t matter when you ate it. But science is beginning to tell a different story, demonstrating that strategically scheduling when you eat can help you maintain and even lose weight. Here’s a guide to getting your timing right.

Munch on more in the morning… “Women often have one of two problems with breakfast,” says Elisabetta Politi, R.D., nutrition director of the Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, NC. “If they overindulge at night, they don’t have much appetite in the morning. Or they’re trying to cut calories early in the day, so they don’t eat enough in the a.m.” Others simply don’t like to put something in their stomachs within the first few hours after getting up. But breakfast-skimpers (“just coffee and dry toast, please”) and -skippers commit the same faux pas: eating too little to fire up their metabolism. The rate at which you burn calories slows when you go hours without eating, making it harder to lose weight.

Further, studies show that rather than adding too many calories to your day, a substantial breakfast helps you eat fewer calories. When researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso analyzed 867 food diaries, study volunteers who ate a bigger meal in the morning went on to eat 100 to 200 fewer calories later in the day.

Need more proof? Research from Michigan State University that tracked 4,218 people showed that women who skipped breakfast were 30 percent more likely to be overweight. The best a.m. filler-uppers: oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter on whole-grain toast, or anything with fiber and protein. If you’re generally not a breakfast-eater, consider that you don’t have to roll out of bed and consume something right away. Just try to eat within three hours of getting up; you’ll get the same benefits as eating an earlier breakfast.

…And on less at night The most recent research suggests that late-night eating may not be a great idea when it comes to weight. Animal studies show that rats who eat during sleeping hours gain more weight than those who eat the same amount during normal waking hours, possibly because night-eating puts them out of sync with their circadian rhythm, the biological clock that controls everything from energy expenditure to hormone release

Whether this is also true in humans is unknown; however, one study showed that people who stopped eating after 8 p.m. had more body fat than people with an earlier cutoff time. Whether or not the body does metabolize late-night calories differently than calories eaten during the day, night calories are often extra calories eaten out of boredom. Stick to a regular snack and meal plan as outlined in the 7 Years Younger diet, and you’ll keep your overall calorie intake in check.