You might be used to having an evening meal but if you’re in a weight-loss rut, new research suggests that dinner at 2 p.m. or skipping it altogether could be an effective way of losing weight and burning off fat.
New research out Thursday suggests that cutting off eating after 2 p.m. until breakfast the next morning could help with controlling hunger while boosting fat-burning throughout the night.
“Eating only during a much smaller window of time than people are typically used to may help with weight loss,” Dr. Courtney Peterson, the study’s lead author, said.
“We found that eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. followed by an 18-hour daily fast kept appetite levels more even throughout the day, in comparison to eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., which is what the [average] American does,” she explained.
Peterson and her team at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana call it “early time-restricted feeding” or eTRF. It’s one of many interpretations of intermittent fasting, which calls for about 12 to 24 hours of skipping meals.
While fasting used to draw controversy because it seemed so extreme, it’s now widely accepted as a weight loss and weight maintenance tool that works in the short term and as a life-long lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting has even been tied to extended life expectancy and staving off chronic issues such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and memory loss.
In Peterson’s study, she had 11 overweight men and women follow two different eating schedules. They had to eat from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for four days and then from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for another four days.
Her team looked at how both diets affected calories burned, fat burned, and appetite. In both cases, the study participants ate the same number of calories while they underwent lab testing.
Turns out, not eating after 2 p.m. didn’t affect how many calories the participants burned. It did help with controlling daily hunger swings and gave fat burning a boost during several hours at night. It also helped the body to switch between burning carbohydrates and fats.
Fasting is undergoing a renaissance. In another similar fasting method, Brad Pilon, the Canadian author of Eat Stop Eat, says weight loss is about 0.5 pounds of true body fat. Initial weight loss may seem steep because of water weight.
In Pilon’s fasting model, dieters don’t go cold turkey for an entire day if it doesn’t fit their schedule. Instead, they can start after any meal, and aim for anywhere between 12 to 24 hours. Pilon fasts at least once a week and he says it’s helped him lose 20 pounds and maintain the same weight he had in his university days — a lean 175 pounds, he said.
Your body runs off of burning food you just ate as fuel but once that food is tapped out, it’ll turn to your fat reserves, Pilon explained.
“The whole purpose of body fat is to be able to burn it when food supply is scarce,” he said.
“The truth is intermittent fasting is a way to create slow, steady weight loss,” he said.
Peterson’s full findings were presented Thursday at the Obesity Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
Read more about intermittent fasting.