A HEALTH expert has revealed the best time to eat the biggest meal of the day if you’re trying to lose weight.
Dr Michael Mosley believes people should follow the old saying of “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper”.
The thinking behind this is that you will burn more calories and improve your metabolic health, keeping your blood sugar levels and cholesterol in a healthy range.
By eating this way, it fits in with the body’s natural daily rhythms, which are driven, largely, by our internal body clocks.
Essentially, people need food first thing to help you power through the morning and you don’t want to fill up your stomach at night as your body is preparing to go to sleep.
However, a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism made the surprising discovery that when you eat doesn’t seem to make much difference to how many calories you burn or how well your body processes the sugars and fats in the meal you have just eaten.
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In the trial, researchers at the University of Aberdeen recruited 30 healthy, overweight men and women and put them on a diet where they would spend four weeks eating most of their calories in the morning or evening, and then switch over.
The meals they ate were high in protein and relatively low in carbs – 30 per cent of their calories came from protein, 35 per cent from carbs and 35 per cent from fat.
Being as they were on a controlled high protein diet, the volunteers lost a decent amount of weight – around half a stone on average – partly due because eating more protein helps keep you fuller by reducing levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.
But they lost just as much, just as fast, whether they ate a big breakfast or a big dinner and there was no difference when it came to the impact of their blood sugar levels.
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The only difference was that when they ate a large breakfast, they felt less hungry during the day rather than tucking into a big dinner.
Dr Mosley told the Daily Mail he was “really surprised” by the findings because several previous studies had found that when you eat can make a big difference.
A study in 2013 carried out by Tel Aviv University in Israel tracked 93 overweight women with raised blood sugar levels.
It found that those eating a big breakfast lost nearly 2.5 times more weight (an average of 8.7kg or 19lb) than those who ate a big dinner (an average of 3.6kg or 8lb).
The women stuck to a low-calorie diet where they either ate most of their food in the morning or the evening.
Trying to explain the difference between the findings of the studies, Dr Mosley said: “The Israeli study was a ‘real world’ one, in other words it was less tightly monitored so people snacked when they felt hungry, something that didn’t happen in the Aberdeen study.”
As well, another difference was that in the Israeli study, the group who had a big breakfast had much larger falls in their levels of blood sugar and fats than those who’d eaten a large dinner.
A few years ago, Dr Mosley carried out a self-experiment for a TV documentary and his findings were similar to those of the Israeli scientists.
He concluded that eating late at night puts you at greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
Dr Mosley said: “What I conclude from all this is that the adage ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper’ still stands and that paying attention to when you eat, as well as what you eat, can play an important role in improving your health.”
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However, he warned: “But don’t expect miracles and be aware that there is no single diet that will suit everyone."
He advised to have a protein-rich breakfast such as scrambled eggs and smoked salmon or kippers and to avoid evening snacking, especially late at night.
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