When it comes to health and wellness, it is all about small sustainable changes. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, adding a handful of spinach to your morning smoothie, or meal-prepping for the week ahead. These small changes can add up to big results. And now we have one more easy tweak that might lead to a major payoff: meal timing. According to a new study, shifting when you eat might actually matter more than what you eat when it comes to body composition and health benefits.
In the study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Science, one group of participants was asked to delay their breakfast by 90 minutes and consume dinner 90 minutes earlier than usual, thereby extending their nightly "fasting window," the time between dinner and breakfast, by 180 minutes. Participants were not told to follow any specific dietary guidelines but rather could eat freely as long as it was within the eating window. The control group was not given any restrictions on diet or meal timing. After 10 weeks, the time-restricted feeding participants had lost, on average, more than twice as much body fat as the control group. So without following a strict diet or even focusing on changing what they ate, the time-restricted group lost more body fat simply by changing when they ate.
This may be because participants who modified their meal times were found to eat less food overall than the control group. In fact, 57 percent reported a reduced appetite, decreased eating opportunities, and a cutback in nighttime snacking. Meaning: Restricting when they ate prompted them to unintentionally restrict how much they ate without feeling deprived.
Although this study was small, it provides important insights into how time-restricted feeding and other forms of intermittent fasting may affect dietary intake, body composition, and overall health. Researchers are eager to continue exploring this connection and expand to larger trials to understand the full range of benefits.