Trying to Lose Weight? Stop Eating Lunch Late.

 Trying to Lose Weight? Stop Eating Lunch Late.

Don’t undermine your efforts by delaying your body’s natural circadian rhythms.

If you consistently work through lunch and find yourself scarfing something down late in the afternoon, your schedule could be secretly damaging your weight loss efforts. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effectiveness of a weight loss program among more than 1200 overweight and obese people in Spain and found that eating lunch later than 3pm resulted in less weight lost.

The study looked specifically at the perilipin protein, which is found in human cells and is essential in moving and burning fat throughout the body. People with a specific genetic variation of this protein lost less weight when they ate lunch later than 3 pm compared to people who ate lunch earlier. Lunch timing didn’t make much difference for people with other genetic variations.

Although this study focused on people with specific genetic makeups, a similar study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2013 also found that eating lunch late was associated with less weight loss success.

So why is your lunch break sabotaging your weight loss goals? Just like feeling sleepy is governed by our circadian rhythms, so is feeling hungry, says Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, an assistant professor at Columbia University who studies the impact of lifestyle behaviours on weight control at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center. “[Metabolism] differs among individuals, and the timing of food consumption in relation to circadian rhythm may influence weight loss,” she says. Circadian rhythms also control insulin secretion in the body, she adds. If you’re eating at a time when your body is less sensitive to insulin, you might have a harder time mobilising fats and losing weight.

Although the timing of lunch might affect some people’s waistlines, the researchers didn’t find any differences in weight loss when they looked at the timing of breakfast or dinner. That could be due to the fact that the study was conducted in Spain, where nearly half of the day’s kilojoules are consumed at lunch. In fact, people who eat a larger lunch may already have a leg up: Earlier studies suggest that people who make lunch the main meal of the day lose more weight and have lower BMIs (though body mass isn’t everything. Here are 5 BMI Myths You Can Stop Believing [10]). According to the World Obesity Federation, about 40 per cent of American women are obese, while in countries where the midday meal is traditionally larger those numbers are much lower, such as Spain (21.4 per cent), Germany (23.9 per cent), and Hungary (31.3 per cent). The World Obesity Foundation also reports that 28.5 per cent of Australian women are obese.

Americans are more likely to skip breakfast, St-Onge says., which may contribute to weight gain, too, St-Onge says. “If you look at the breakdown of food intake in the US population, there are fewer kilojoules being consumed for breakfast and lunch. If you add breakfast and lunch together that would be about 40 per cent of kilojoules, and dinner and snacks make up the other 60 per cent,” she says. She still thinks more research needs to be done on the impact of meal timing, but if you find yourself eating healthy but still struggling to shed kilos, making lunch your main meal – and eating it closer to actual lunch time – are manageable places to start.


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