5 Meal-timing Tips For Max Weight-loss Results

Jodi Helmer
by Jodi Helmer
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5 Meal-timing Tips For Max Weight-loss Results

The adage, ‘timing is everything,’ applies to mealtime, too. Research shows when you eat might be just as important as what you eat. This doesn’t mean you have license to ignore calories, but it is essential to be mindful of when those calories are consumed.

“Given the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, it is clear the current lifestyle recommendations are not effective,” says Frank A.J.L. Scheer, PhD, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We need to expand our tool kit. Meal timing appears very promising.”

A 2017 study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found meal timing had an impact on BMI. Researchers noted those with the lowest BMIs tended to fast for more than 18 hours between supper and breakfast, eat breakfast and plan for their largest meal first thing in the morning. (In comparison, those with shorter fasting periods between supper and breakfast, breakfast skippers and those who ate their largest meals at supper had higher BMIs).

Try these five strategies to time your meals for maximum impact:



Think twice before noshing on grab-and-go items like sugary cereals and calorie-laden muffins, and aim for a high-protein first meal. Sweet foods give you a quick energy spike, but the rapid drop in blood sugar that follows will make you want to curl up under your desk for a nap. Research shows eating 45 grams of protein at breakfast is optimal to trigger satiety. Yes, bacon is protein-packed but it also comes with a lot of fat. “The quality of calories counts,” warns Vicki Shanta Retelny, a dietician and author of “Total Body Diet for Dummies.”Aim for a mix of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats to fuel your day.



If you want maximum results from your sweat session, opt for a protein-based snack after a workout. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found consuming 25 grams of protein 60 minutes after a workout helps refuel depleted muscles.



Forget smaller, lunch-sized portion and tuck into a larger midday meal.

study published in The International Journal of Obesity studied 420 overweight and obese adults and found those who ate their major meal after 3 p.m. — lunch for this Spanish cohort — lost less weight than those who ate earlier in the day despite similar calorie consumption and activity levels. Scheer, who co-authored the paper with professors Marta Garaulet, believes diet-induced thermogenesis, the increased energy expenditure after food intake, could be the reason for the results.

The circadian system impacts glucose tolerance, impairing your ability to lower blood sugar after an evening meal and causing your body to burn fewer calories after an evening meal than it does after an identical earlier meal, according to Scheer.



Struggling to sleep? Your dinner menu could be to blame.

In one study, eating a high-fiber, higher protein dinner (30% of total calories from fiber and 17% of total calories from protein) and less saturated fat helped adults fall asleep faster than those who ate meals that were lower in fiber and higher in saturated fat and sugar. The researchers found eating a high-fiber, higher protein meal was also associated with more time in slow wave, deep sleep, which is essential for memory consolidation and immune function. Eating more saturated fat, in contrast, led to less restful sleep and more nighttime arousals.



Eating late at night (both before bed or waking up during the night for a snack), led to poorer sleep and a disruption of the hormones that regulate appetite and stress, according to one study.

“Due to our circadian rhythms, our metabolism slows down at night gearing up for sleep so it’s best not to eat a large meal right before bed,” Retelny explains.  

Give your body at least two hours before bed to digest a meal. If you’re famished, Retelny notes, “A light snack before bed is OK.” Opt for a snack with a balance of nutrients such as cottage cheese with apple slices; a handful of nuts with a small banana or a large rice cake with peanut butter.

About the Author

Jodi Helmer
Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer writes about health and wellness for publications like WebMD, AARP, Shape, Woman’s Day, Arthritis Today and Costco Connection among others. She often comes up with the best story ideas while hiking with her rescue dogs. You can read Jodi’s work or follow her on Twitter @helmerjodi.


9 responses to “5 Meal-timing Tips For Max Weight-loss Results”

  1. Avatar Homer says:

    fad science opinion piece with no credible scientific references….Dr Oz stuff

    • Avatar Thomas J says:

      Homer, Did you read the article? She cites 3 scientific studies plus mentions 2 other un-named studies:
      A 2017 study, published in the Journal of Nutrition
      A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
      A study published in The International Journal of Obesity
      + 2 others

  2. Avatar Paul says:

    This is misinformation. 99.9% of the population should worry about being in a healthy caloric deficit overall not timing (when wanting to lose weight).

    Don’t make things more complicated than they have to be. You’re making it more difficult for people to adhere to diets.

    You know what’s more important than meal timing? Adherence and sticking to the diet in the long term.

    • Avatar Thomas J says:

      She’s not saying caloric content doesn’t matter, only that new studies have shown that meal timing is important as well. This shouldn’t make it difficult for people considering that humans (and all other creatures) have inherent circadian rhythms since the dawn of time. Please look into Ayurveda. An ancient study of the “science of life” and you’ll see that circadian rhythms play an HUGE role in our health and well being.

  3. Avatar Daniel Walker says:

    Planning a proper daily meal important in this hectic schedule. Thanks for sharing this post.

  4. In recent time weight loss is in trend. Our daily meal or diet plan play a vital role into losing weight faster. As people are very busy in their lives and daily work, they don’t get time to plan a strategic meal for weight loss. Thanks a lot for sharing this helpful article of meal prepping tips to get max weight loss results.

  5. Avatar Kate Paullin says:

    Wow, as a vegetarian, 45g of protein is an overwhelming breakfast goal for me! I normally eat greek yogurt with muesli (about 25g total) or scrambled eggs with veggies and goat cheese (about 20g total) for breakfast, so I can’t even fathom how I’d up that to 45g without doubling the amount I’m already eating (which also doubles the calories!) I read a lot of articles about vegetarian protein sources, and it seems like even from the highest sources of protein they list that 45g in one meal is practically impossible. Anyone have any suggestions?

  6. Avatar Dog Lover says:

    This bull. Stick with the Mayo Clinic, Duke and Weight Watchers… it only matters to you (i.e. if snacking at night leads to bingeing for you) it does not matter when you consume your calories.. intermittent fasting is popular now… but in the end it looks like that just helps with calorie restriction.

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