It happens to the best of us: We get up early for work, but for some reason, we just aren’t hungry. Maybe we had a late dinner the night before. Maybe we are in such a rush in the morning that we simply forget to eat. This inevitably pushes our “food window” later into the evening and makes us more inclined to eat later dinners or even have a late night snack. It’s a vicious cycle of poorly-timed eating, and now, a recent study out of Vanderbilt University suggests that the time we eat plays a prominent role in weight gain than experts initially thought. Though many studies have been done on the subject of weight loss and meal times, this particular study focused on circadian control over the metabolism.


Why Is A Food Curfew Necessary?

Science tells us that, even though activity levels, food types, and amount of food all play into the weight-loss game, the time of day that you eat is just as important as what you eat. Much of that effect has to do with your biological clock and how your body oxidizes lipids from your food at different times in the day. The study found that the body’s natural circadian rhythm drives the metabolism to oxidize lipids at a higher rate during breakfast hours, whereas the metabolism switches its method of nutrient intake later in the day making that oxidation process much slower as the evening stretches into nighttime. With this in mind, establishing a food curfew between 6pm-8pm will ensure that you’re using your metabolism to the fullest.


How About Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting has become popular over the past few years because it limits eating time without necessarily limiting the amount or type of food eaten. It’s a great focal point for dieters who are eager to reshape their meal schedules for the better and cut down on late-night eating. There are lots of different approaches to intermittent fasting, but Vanderbilt’s study suggests that an earlier “food window” will allow you to utilize your body’s natural processes to more effectively lose weight and stay fit. Setting a food curfew will also ensure that window is earlier in the day. Both methods work in unison, so why not try both and see what best fits your lifestyle?


What Should My Eating Schedule Look Like?

Ultimately, your mealtime routine will depend on your lifestyle, but here is an example of what a healthy meal schedule looks like assuming you get to bed between 10pm-11pm:

  • Breakfast: 7 – 8am
  • Light Snack: 10am
  • Lunch: 12 – 1pm
  • Light Snack: 3pm
  • Dinner: 6 – 7pm

Everyone’s life and routine will look a little different, but if there is one take-away from the Vanderbilt study, it’s that you’re most likely to lose weight and foster a more effective metabolic rate if you set a food curfew 2-3 hours before you usually go to bed. Give a try and see how you feel after a week!