Eat This: Time of Day Does Matter for Meals


What’s for breakfast? What time do you break for lunch? When’s everybody going to be home for dinner? What is the best time to eat?

If you base your meal plans around specific times of day, you’re not alone. But if you’re a member of the eat-a-huge-breakfast club, you may want to rethink your healthy meal schedule.

Why? New research suggests that your body burns fewer calories during the morning, evening hours, and when you’re asleep than mid-morning, mid-day, and late afternoon.

After eliminating all possible variables in a controlled-lab environment with meals and sleeping quarters for participants, researchers found that people burn about 10 percent more calories between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. than any other time of day.

If weight loss or weight management is important to you, this means eating a big breakfast may not be the best approach to dieting. If you eat a lot of calories for breakfast, you’re less likely to use all those calories compared to eating the same amount around dinner time.

According to a recent study, researchers think it’s the body’s biological clock or circadian rhythm that plays a primary role in energy expenditure. And it’s difficult to change. Which means people who work the graveyard shift, swing shift, or an ever-changing schedule may be at higher risk for storing extra calories and weight gain, based on their meal times.

If you can, aim to eat your largest meal of the day before 6 p.m. If you can’t, be mindful of your food choices throughout the day. Make sure you get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise to burn extra calories. And instead of late-night snacking, enjoy some Zzzs.