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What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?

April 26, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Chrissy Stagg

We're living a faster-paced life than ever before, with longer hours at work and things happening quickly and continuously all around us. Juggling multiple tasks throughout the day means you're likely looking at convenience foods, getting takeout, or relying on ready-meals. But even if you prioritize meal prep to solve that problem, what happens when you're too busy to eat? 

Irregular eating patterns are another problem, so finding ways to get back into a more stable diet is more important. Of course, keep in mind that it's always important to speak with your doctor about any medical conditions (like diabetes) and listen to internal hunger cues when establishing an eating pattern. 

Like meal frequency, eating patterns will also change based on your health goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, you may have to structure your dietary goals around this. So, what are some of the best times to eat for weight loss? Here are some suggestions for timing your meals to encourage optimal digestion and weight loss. 

Is There Scientific Evidence That Certain Times of Eating Are More Conducive to Weight Loss? 

To understand meal timing, it's a good idea to move away from the idea of eating for comfort and more towards eating to fuel your body. You need fuel for most activities, right? For most people, these activities occur during the day. 

It means your body typically processes food for energy during the day. At night, your body is more focused on rest and repair. This idea would suggest that your body slows down and is less efficient in processing foods at night.

One of the first studies that looked at the impact of food timing on metabolism was conducted in mice. Mice are nocturnal, which means they're active during moonlight and sleeping during daylight. The research found that mice fed with a high-fat diet during their active period gained less weight than those fed a similar high-fat diet during rest when feeding is usually reduced. 

These results inspired human studies into whether food timing affects body weight, and it turns out that it matters!

When Should You Eat Breakfast?

In animals, studies have shown that the first meal of the day determines the pattern of the peripheral internal clocks. This study suggests that you may want to consider eating within the first few hours of waking to get your day off to a good start

It also allows complete digestion and rest for a few hours before the second meal of the day. Of course, everyone is different and waking patterns vary from person to person, so it's essential to experiment for yourself. 

Is It Ever Appropriate To Skip Breakfast?

Some research suggests that skipping breakfast increases postprandial responses after lunch and dinner due to impaired insulin response. 

Having said that, it may make sense to skip breakfast if you're practicing Intermittent Fasting, and this time of the day is during your fasting window. 

For some who follow a 16/8 fasting schedule (eating during an eight-hour window and fasting for 16 hours), the fasting period could begin after dinner between 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and not end until closer to lunch the next day. 

In this instance, the benefits of skipping breakfast are similar to the benefits of fasting. Research shows that intermittent fasting can reduce overall calorie intake, promote weight loss, and improve metabolic health.

Healthy and Tasty Breakfast Ideas to Lose Weight

  • A Greek yogurt bowl: Make sure it's plain, unsweetened yogurt. Eat it topped with low glycemic fruits such as blueberries, nuts, and seeds.
  • Chia seed pudding: Make with kefir or greek yogurt and topped with your favorite fruit and nuts.
  • Easy egg muffins: Pour eggs mixed with a splash of milk (any kind) over lightly sautéed veggies (mushrooms, onions, jalapeños, spinach) and bake in a muffin tin at 350 degrees until set (20 to 30 minutes). Top with feta. 

When Should You Eat Lunch?

Studies suggest eating lunch between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. for optimal results. But of course, it’s important to remember that we’re all different, so this may not be the same for everyone. 

A Spanish study experimented with the timing of lunch and weight loss to see if there was a correlation with when you eat your main meal. 

Results from the study indicated that late lunch eaters (after 3 p.m.) lost less weight during the experiment than early lunch eaters (before 3 p.m.). This was despite having similar age, appetite hormones, energy intake and expenditure, sleep duration or sleep duration or macronutrients distribution. 

A similar study found that eating after 4:30 p.m. decreased glucose tolerance, resting energy expenditure, and carbohydrate oxidation than eating closer to 1 p.m. 

Is It Ever Appropriate To Skip Lunch?

Skipping lunch may be tempting if you are busy or distracted, but it can cause problems later in the day. Skipping lunch can deplete your body of energy, causing brain fog or drowsiness. 

In addition, you may also feel overly hungry in the afternoon leading to overeating in your final meal. 

Ultimately, the best approach is to listen to your internal cues to determine your hunger level and make the best decision. You could always reduce your lunch portions if you find your appetite is not as large as expected.

Healthy and Tasty Lunch Ideas to Lose Weight

  • A protein box: Prep hard-boiled eggs, nuts, berries, chopped vegetables, and hummus in a bento box container. It's great for eating on the go or when time and energy are limited.
  • A salmon salad: Sear a salmon filet and place it on top of a bed of greens. Add hard-boiled eggs, onions, and tomatoes. Drizzle a quick dressing with vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and lemon over the top. 
  • Taco salad: Chop vegetables like kale, shredded cabbage, and raw broccoli, and top with beans and protein (of your choice, seasoned with taco seasoning). Add salsa, plain greek yogurt, and guacamole.

When Should You Eat Dinner?

Ideally, your final meal of the day would be a minimum of three to four hours before you go to bed. Studies have found that having a late dinner or eating too late at night has links to an increased risk of obesity and metabolic disruptions like dyslipidemia and hyperglycemia. 

A study in overweight/obese women with metabolic syndrome showed that those with higher caloric intake during dinner had more significant insulin resistance than those with a higher caloric intake during breakfast. This finding suggests that reducing intake at dinner may help reduce insulin resistance over time. 

A large Japanese study also demonstrated that eating late was associated with hyperglycemia independent of BMI. 

Studies also found that being awake and eating during moonlight hours caused multiple metabolic changes, including increased postprandial glucose and insulin concentrations. 

Is It Ever Appropriate To Skip Dinner?

For most people with normal metabolisms, skipping dinner or eating it early in the afternoon may be beneficial. It may align better with our internal clocks, which optimize digestion and absorption of nutrients. 

Due to the need for glucose stability, if you're managing chronic conditions like diabetes, this idea may be a matter to discuss with your doctor before making any changes. Again, it's also important to follow your internal hunger cues to determine when to start an overnight fast until the morning hours.

Healthy and Tasty Dinner Ideas to Lose Weight

  • Consider an easy, mess-free meal by utilizing sheet pan dinners. Pick a starch, a protein, and vegetable(s). Toss all the ingredients with olive oil and bake. You may need to bake the starch for a little longer than the protein or vegetable. 
  • In a large cast-iron skillet or wok, stir-fry a pile of fresh veggies. Pick anything from onions, cabbage, carrots, and snap peas to zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, celery, and bok choy. Add a protein like sliced grass-fed beef, chicken, or tofu and stir-fry, then add in fresh garlic and ginger, soy sauce (or liquid aminos), and finish with a drizzle of sesame oil.
  • Make your own chili with grass-fed beef, tomatoes, broth, and vegetables in a slow cooker before heading out for the day. You could also make a homemade vegetable soup (chopped vegetables, beans, broth, and seasonings) with whatever you have on hand.

Are There Good Times to Eat Snacks?

Eating stimulates hormones like insulin to help process incoming food. Meals with refined carbohydrates added sugars, and/or large portion sizes stimulate insulin the most. Still, all foods have at least a small impact. So when we are grazing throughout the day, our body is always in a "fed" state. If you allow some time between meals, you give your body rest from this cycle. It may be something to experiment with to see what works best for you.

To date, research has not sufficiently demonstrated a causal relationship between snack foods and obesity. Results have been mixed, with various and inconsistent exposures. For example, one study of normal-weight women found that those with strong urges for snack foods and low ability to control these urges gained the most weight. Another reason for the weight gain and snacking association may be increased portion sizes. 

Increasing portions by half was found to increase daily energy intake by 16 percent, and doubling your portions increased energy intake by 26 percent. That said, it may be a good idea to have a small snack if several hours pass between your meals and your blood glucose levels dip. 

The snack would give you the energy needed to curb your appetite and increase glucose levels to prevent overeating at the next meal. 

If your snacking isn’t related to actual hunger, eating can lead to unwanted weight gain due to adding excess calories. Frequent snacking can also reduce hunger at mealtimes or cause one to skip a meal entirely, which increases the risk of losing out on essential nutrients.

A general guideline for having a snack is that it should be at least two to three hours after a meal to allow for complete digestion. Consider eating a snack with a combination of protein and/or fiber. 

Some Helpful Examples

  1. A handful of nuts and berries
  2. Hummus with cucumbers or snap peas
  3. Tuna and avocado salad with celery.

Timing and Weight-Loss Takeaways

So, what's the perfect time to eat for weight loss? There may not be one ideal time for everyone, but there are certainly some hours that may be better than others. 

Overall, the takeaway here is this: while it's highly individualized, some general guidelines suggest that eating breakfast by 9 a.m., lunch between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., and dinner at least four hours before bed can set your body up for optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients. Snacks may seem tempting, but they can lead to unnecessary calorie intake if eaten for the wrong reasons. 

Learn How NutriSense Helps Individuals Achieve Their Weight-Loss Goals

Making changes to your diet and meal timing can be challenging. Sometimes, the results may be hard to track without the support of data trends. With a subscription to NutriSense, you can see how different foods affect your blood sugar levels and metabolism. 

You can use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to track your meals and see how each one affects your energy levels, digestion, and mood. By understanding which foods work well for your body, you can create a healthier, more balanced diet. And the best part is that you’ll also have access to a team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists to help you read and understand the data.

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What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?
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Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain
Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain

Menopause can be a difficult journey, so we've compiled some of the most effective, science backed tips to help you with menopause-related weight gain.

Story
8
min
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Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day
Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day

Father’s Day is around the corner, and whether you’re celebrating your dad, a father figure, or another cherished loved one, helping them take care of their health can be the ultimate gift.

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10
min
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11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]
11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]

Here's a helpful list of some of our favorite low-carb snacks that can help you keep your diet varied and full of healthy nutrients.

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7
min
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Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy
Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Whether you're looking for low GI summer snacks or healthy sweet treats, this post has got you covered. Here are tasty low glycemic index recipes everyone will enjoy!

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8
min
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Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Wondering if grapes are safe for people with diabetes to include in their diet? Read on to find out.

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7
min
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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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11
min
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20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)
20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)

We sat down with Kara Collier, our co-founder and VP of Health here at NutriSense, to take a closer look at how CGMs work and what you need to know about these devices before using one.

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7
min
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Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 
Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 

Are carbs and sugar the same? In this post, we break down the key differences between the two and share the benefits of complex carbohydrates.

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9
min
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Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS
Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS

Read on to learn more about DOMS, how long it can last, and then pick from our list of the best breakfasts to help beat that post-workout soreness, support muscle building, and encourage fat loss.

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13
min
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7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar
7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar

When it comes to lowering blood sugar levels, not all supplements are created equal. From ginseng to aloe vera, here are some of the best supplements to help avoid high blood sugar and encourage blood sugar control.

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8
min
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Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?
Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?

Bloating that results from a surgery can sometimes be an unexpected part of the recovery process. Is there anything you can do to reduce bloating or prevent it from happening? And what causes this bloating anyway? Read on to find the answer to these questions and much more to help you combat your post-surgery swelling. 

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9
min
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Is Fiber a Carb? 
Is Fiber a Carb? 

Learn why fiber is classified as a carb and how to increase your intake of this health promoting nutrient.

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9
min
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 

Did you know Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease? Read on to learn what it's like living with PD plus discover treatment options.

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10
min
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An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends
An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends

From rosemary water to dry scooping, should you be trying every new trend that hits TikTok? How can you tell which ones may help and which ones to steer clear of?

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8
min
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Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?
Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?

As great as sugar tastes, including too much of it in your diet can lead to certain health problems. Read on to learn more about the role sugar plays in keeping your skin healthy.

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9
min
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14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians
14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians

Read on to see which podcasts our dietitians recommend if you’re interested in learning more about nutrition and health.

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7
min
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Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?
Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?

Nicotine is a chemical in tobacco that can affect your health in various ways. Read our article to learn how it impacts blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

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9
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Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs
Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs

CGMs are now an excellent tool for anyone who wants to optimize their metabolic health. Read on to find out more about the benefits CGMs can have for healthy people!

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10
min
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Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?
Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Although bariatric surgery can be an effective way to lose weight and improve health for people who are obese, it’s a major decision. Find out what lifestyle changes you need to make before going under the knife.

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8
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes

Excited to fire up the grill this summer? Read on to learn if grilling is healthy for you plus check out the NutriSense Nutrition Team's favorite grilling recipes for the season.

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9
min
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How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar
How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar

Did you know that your gut health can impact your blood glucose levels? Explore ways to improve your gut health for optimal glucose levels.

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8
min
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Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that can cause swelling and joint pain. Learn more about how it develops and how other health conditions affect its onset.

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10
min
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13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider
13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider

We’ve hand-picked the best weight loss apps available. Here are the thirteen best weight loss apps.

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8
min
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What is Red Light Therapy?
What is Red Light Therapy?

An emerging treatment, red light therapy promises to prevent and treat the signs of aging and other skin issues. Read on to find out more.

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9
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Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]
Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]

Struggling to stick with a health-promoting diet? Here’s how to make it enjoyable so you can reap the benefits.

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85
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Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation
Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation

VP of Health and co-founder of NutriSense Kara Collier discusses reaching optimal health through blood sugar regulation, what a continuous glucose monitor is, and who might benefit from using it.

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16
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How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny
How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny

In this episode of Zero to CEO, Jason Sherman talks to Dan Zavorotny about how to turn your idea into a 120 person team in 2.5 years.

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7
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A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)
A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index is a term you may have seen tossed around quite a bit in the health world. You may know that it’s a way to measure body fat, but with so many new tests for measuring overall fitness and health, is BMI still reliable?

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8
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Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day
Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day

If you're watching your glucose levels, traditional BBQ staples may not be the best choice. Here are some recipes that will help you enjoy a Memorial Day meal without a blood sugar spike.

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8
min
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Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care
Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care

Mental health has a significant impact on your overall health; here are tips, tools, and apps to improve your mental wellbeing.

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8
min
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Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter
Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter

Living with diabetes can be a challenge, especially when it comes to keeping your blood sugar levels regulated. Learn if you can check your blood sugar at home without a meter.

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10
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to make sure you have the tools you need to protect yourself from sunburn and sun damage. But how do you choose the right one for adequate sun protection?

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8
min
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Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 
Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 

Learn how Japanese water therapy can help with weight loss, energy levels, and detoxification.