There’s a lot of debate about the best way to lose weight. Is it about when you eat, how much, or what? Or will a fad diet get you where you want?
We can disregard the fad diets immediately. Plenty of research shows they are ineffective and often lead to future weight gain. Intermittent fasting, however, may be an exception to this rule.
Intermittent fasting – a dietary pattern when eating is restricted to a certain window during the day – has gained popularity in recent years. A growing body of work shows that it can lead to weight loss and other health benefits.
Now new research is showing that when it comes to sustainable weight loss, what seems to matter most is how often and how much you eat rather than when.
These results are a little bit surprising, largely because eating late at night is generally associated with poor sleep, which can add to weight gain.
This study is particularly interesting because the Johns Hopkins Medicine research team did not monitor its participants’ intentions, just their eating habits. They did not ask anyone to change their behavior or whether or not they were trying to lose weight.
All 547 participants used an app called “Daily24” that allowed them to record sleeping and eating routines on a daily basis for half a year and calculate meal habits. Participants went on to have their weight tracked for six years.
After assessing all the numbers, researchers found that regardless of current weight status, there was no apparent link between when people ate meals and any weight change.
On the other hand, regularly eating large meals (1,000 calories +) or medium-sized meals (500-1000 calories) was linked to a greater likelihood of weight gain. Eating fewer or more frequent smaller meals (less than 500 calories) was linked to weight loss.
If you’d like to lose weight to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint pain, and more, it’s best to focus on overall eating habits. What you put in your body, not necessarily when, is the most important.
Focusing on nutrient-dense foods – which are often low-calorie and satiating – is the best solution to controlling weight and improving health, regardless of when you eat them.
Whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil, dairy, and unprocessed lean meats are the cornerstones of a healthy diet that promotes weight loss.