Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Timing Meals for Weight Loss?

Can you help settle an argument? A friend insists that if you're trying to lose weight, you have to eat your meals on the early side. I think it all comes down how much you eat. Who's right?

Answer (Published 7/22/2013)

You're both right. Weight loss depends on cutting back on the amount you eat (or at least choosing foods that are healthy and satisfying but lower in calories than those that make up your current diet), but recent research suggests that meal timing also plays a role. A study from the University of Murcia in Spain, performed in conjunction with researchers from Tufts University and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, looked at the weight loss efforts of 420 overweight men and women whose average age was 42 and who designated themselves as "early-eaters" (51 percent) or "late-eaters" (49 percent). The big meal of the day in Spain is lunch, at which 40 percent of total daily calories are consumed. In this study, the early-eaters had lunch any time before 3 p.m. and the late-eaters lunched anytime after 3 in the afternoon. For the first five weeks of the 20-week study, the dieters lost weight at about the same pace, but after that, the late-eaters' losses began to stall. When the study ended, the late-eaters had lost 22 percent less weight than the early birds. The study was published in the April, 2013, of the International Journal of Obesity.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor - If you are interested in supplementing your diet but don't know where to start, take Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. It is free, and provides a personalized vitamin & supplement recommendation based on your health history. Visit today!

This was the first large-scale study to demonstrate how the timing of meals affects weight loss. Although it showed that the timing of the main meal mattered, the timing of the other two smaller meals didn't. The investigators also noted that although overall calories were about the same, the late eaters consumed fewer calories at breakfast than the early eaters or were inclined to skip breakfast altogether. The late-eaters also had lower estimated insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for diabetes.

When the researchers looked at other factors that can influence weight loss – calorie intake and energy expenditure, as well as levels of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin and the amount of time the participants slept, they saw no statistical differences between the two groups. This suggests that timing was "an important and independent factor" in weight-loss success.

If you're trying to shed a few pounds, it might pay to have your main meal on the early side. However, don't lose sight of the fact that what works in the long run is cutting calories. Don't depend on meal timing as the only change to do the job for you. The only reliable formula for weight loss is eating less and being more active. To lose weight while maintaining or improving your health, I recommend my anti-inflammatory diet coupled with calorie-consciousness and daily physical activity.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here