It’s not just what you eat, but when. According to new research, the time of day that you eat could have more of an influence on weight loss than calorie count.
We all get late night cravings sometimes, especially if we’re working longer hours than normal or staying up later than usual. Generally, pre-bedtime munchies veer on the unhealthier side, but even if you were to have a light snack that adhered to your daily calorie goals, the simple fact of altering your eating routine could sabotage your diet.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center tested this theory on mice. They gave five groups of mice the exact same reduced caloric intake. One group was fed during their normal feeding schedule, while the others ate during the day, when the nocturnal animals would normally be resting. The first group was the only group to lose weight.
“Translated into human behavior, these studies suggest that dieting will only be effective if calories are consumed during the daytime when we are awake and active,” Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, Chairman of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, said in a statement. “They further suggest that eating at the wrong time at night will not lead to weight loss even when dieting.”
The study, published in the medical journal Cell Metabolism, also looked at how eating at the wrong time can alter circadian rhythms. For example, two groups of mice that were fed during the day, when they’d normally be asleep, responded by increasing activity during the night, indicating that their sleep-wake schedule may have been disturbed. Researchers believe this suggests that altering your eating habits could cause sleep deprivation. So if you’re also having trouble sleeping, your dietary habits could be the culprit.