There are a bunch of potential factors that may explain how your eating time and volume affects your weight.
After analyzing data from 50,000 adults on their eating habits, the researchers discovered that there were a few behaviors that were linked to less weight gain, or even weight loss, over the seven-year follow up.
Compared to people who ate three meals a day, those who ate just one or two meals daily were more likely to show decreases in their body mass indexes (BMI) per year. The three-squares a day group actually showed an increase in their BMI as the study went on. And the more meals and snacks the people ate per day, the greater their increase in BMI tended to be.
As for fasting? The people who had the longest time between dinner and breakfast—a fast of at least 18 hours—showed lower BMIs over the course of the study than those who fasted between 12 and 17 hours.
And breakfast mattered, too: Those who made it a point to eat that first meal had BMIs that decreased over the study, while those that skipped the meal tended to put on weight.
What’s more, how much they ate at that meal mattered, too. Those who made breakfast their largest meal of the day had significant decreases in BMI compared to those who ate their largest meal at dinner. Those who made lunch their main meal were also slimmer than the large dinner eaters, but the effect wasn’t quite as strong as it was with breakfast. (For a breakfast-y lunch, try egg-in-a-hole BLT.)
There are a bunch of potential factors that may explain how your eating time and volume affects your weight. One in particular? Eating a large breakfast not only reduces hunger in the short term, but it also reduces the spike in the hunger hormone ghrelin, the study authors write. That’s important, since it might also tamp down cravings, and prevent you from overeating later on.
Still, some guys find that eating in a set window leaves them hungry when their feeding time is over for the day. If you want to give techniques like intermittent fasting a shot, try bumping up your protein intake in your meals, says obesity specialist Spencer Nadolsky, D.O.