According to one study, intermittent fasting earlier in the day can help you lose three pounds more than eating later in the afternoon.
Intermittent fasting is a popular diet technique in which a person can eat as much as they want, of whatever they want, within a set amount of time each day.
However, there has been much debate about its effectiveness and what time of day a person should eat and when they should stop.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences recruited 90 people of normal weight and divided them into an early group, a late group and a control group.
Throughout the five-week study, the early cohort was only allowed to eat between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., while the late group was restricted to food between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The data shows the 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. group consumed 240 fewer calories each day than those who were not dieting and lost 3.5 pounds over the five weeks.
However, the 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. group saw their calorie intake drop by just 159 calories per day compared to the control group, losing just 0.45 lbs.
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Those who stopped eating at 3 p.m. saw their body fat drop by 0.6 percentage points compared to 0.22 percentage points for the evening group.
The researchers tracked each person’s consumption by asking participants to take a picture of everything they ate during the study. An expert would then decide how many calories a meal contains, and another academic would double-check the assessment.
Blood samples were taken at the start and end of the study, along with body mass and body fat percentage measurements, to help the team understand how different diets affected measures such as insulin levels and gut bacteria.
The early group, but not the late group, saw “improvement in fasting blood glucose, reduction in total body mass and adiposity, improvement in inflammation, and increase in gut microbial diversity”, write the researchers in the study, published in Nature Communications.
Participants largely stuck to their diet plans with 96.8% of the first group staying on task, while it was slightly higher (98.2%) for the last group.
“Good compliance with the protocols in the present study implies that time-restricted fasting is an easy-to-execute fasting regimen, and similar compliance with each suggests that they are equally feasible,” the researchers write.
“Although similar changes in energy intake occurred in both groups, only the early group showed a reduction in body mass compared to the control group, which was accompanied by reductions in body fat percentage and body mass.”
They believe that stopping eating earlier in the day may be more effective because timing will disrupt the body’s natural daily rhythms more effectively.