Could an Early Dinner Help You Lose Weight?

Meal timing has been a common topic in the health and fitness world for a very long time. And, among the myriad recommendations out there about when you should and shouldn’t be eating, one of the most common pieces of advice that you’re likely to hear is this: Don’t eat too late.

But this has been pretty heavily debated – largely because many cultures around the world don’t eat their final meal until well into the night.

Still, a recent study conducted by the Obesity Society offers one more piece of evidence that it might be wise to eat your dinner earlier than usual.

The Study

In the study, which claims to be the first ever to examine the benefits of “early time-restricted feeding (eTRF),” eleven overweight individuals were observed for eight days. For four days, the subjects eat in a 12-hour window from 8am to 8pm. During the other half of the study, the subjects’ eating window was reduced to 6 hours, stretching from 8am to just 2pm.

During both eating schedules, the participants ate the same amount of calories and underwent a battery of tests to measure their metabolisms and levels of hunger.

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that the eTRF schedule reduced feelings of hunger and increased fat burning – particularly at night. Interestingly, eTRF did not increase the total amount of calories burned.

Now, it’s important to point out a few things about this study. First, the sample size was very small and the duration was extremely short. Likely because it only lasted four days, no one lost any weight with the reduced eating window.

Sound Familiar?

Still, eTRF does show some promise. By simply adjusting their schedule – without eating any less – the subjects were able to encourage their bodies to more readily burn stored fat for energy.

There’s a pretty good chance, though, that this sounds strangely familiar to you. It is, indeed, a rebranding of intermittent fasting (IF), which has been gaining popularity over the past several years. Although it exists in many forms, a very common approach to IF involves reducing your eating window to about 8 hours – typically done by skipping breakfast.

The authors of the above study, however, argue that beginning your fast period earlier in the day better complements your body’s natural rhythms than the usual practice of skipping breakfast.