New research shows that when we eat our meals may be just as important as what we’re eating. A recent study finds that just when the day starts to wind down at about 5 p.m., our bodies are actually doing the opposite and revving up for peak calorie burning.
“We discovered that you naturally burn about 10% more calories in the late afternoon than you do later at night,” explains Kirsi-Marja Zitting, associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, instructor at Harvard Medical School, and lead author of this study. And 10% might not sound like much, but that’s about 130 calories your body is torching without you having to do anything extra.
So why do our bodies burn more calories in the late afternoon? Researchers aren’t sure, but suspect that metabolism ebbs and flows with our circadian rhythm. So when we’re asleep at night and aren’t using much energy, our metabolism slows. During the day, when we’re active and busy, it goes back up until that peak at around 5 p.m.
Syncing our diets to our internal clocks comes with major health benefits and here’s how to do it:
- Stick to a schedule -Zitting says the most important thing to do is maintain a regular schedule. That means waking up and going to bed around the same time every day as well as eating your meals at about the same time.
- Don't eat at extreme hours- Sometimes life gets in the way and you can’t always maintain that routine, but you still have to be smart about timing. If you don’t get home from work until 10 p.m., polishing off a huge dinner that late isn’t going to do you any favors. And on the flip side, on days when you have to be up at the crack of dawn, skip a big breakfast first thing. “Your body burns the fewest calories at 4 a.m.,” says Zitting. If you eat before six, your system will store more of what you eat.
- Time carbs and fats wisely -This research found that we’re more prone to burn carbs in the morning and fats at night, so it may be better to eat carbs earlier in the day and foods higher in fat at night.