How to Lose Weight Without Exercise or Dieting—Changing When You Eat

Eating meals at the right time could aid weight loss, according to a study.

Shifting breakfast and dinner times by 90 minutes was enough to help the body shed fat, researchers at the U.K.-based University of Surrey found. The study investigated a concept known as chrononutrition, or how when we eat rather than what we eat affects the body.

To unpick how meal timings impact weight, the team asked 13 volunteers aged between 29 and 57 to follow a time-restricted feeding program, a type of intermittent fasting. The participants were allowed to eat what they liked, as long as they only consumed food in an eating window assigned by the researchers. The team hoped avoiding restrictions would help confirm how easy the diet would be to follow in a real-life situation.

The team collected blood samples from the participants at the start, finish and during the 10-week study. Participants also kept food diaries.

Changing when we eat breakfast and dinner could help us burn fat, a study has suggested. Getty Images

Half of the participants were asked to eat breakfast 90 minutes later than usual, and eat their dinner 90 minutes earlier. The others were asked to continue as normal.

At the end of the study, those who changed their eating window lost more than twice as much body fat as those who continued their normal diet.

Dr. Jonathan D Johnston, an expert in circadian rhythms and metabolism at the University of Surrey, told Newsweek there is impressive animal data supporting the idea that reducing the time between the first and last meal of the day is beneficial to weight loss, but very little human data.

"Even in this small study we saw clear reductions in energy intake per day, and body fat in the group with restricted eating time, compared to the control group," Johnson said.

Despite the encouraging results, however, Johnston acknowledged this was a small, preliminary study. Plus, around half of the participants complained they found it difficult to fit the regime with their daily routine, he said.

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Johnson went on to say that "future work will therefore include whether the basic idea of time-restricted feeding can be applied slightly differently to people with diverse social and or work patterns."

"The evidence to date in humans is that reducing the time between first and last food intake per day will have metabolic and or health benefits. This agrees with existing large animal studies," he explained.

"We are currently investigating whether there is an optimum time window," he continued. "We might predict that there is, but there is currently no clear evidence ... [The study] does, however, give a clear indication that this approach could help many people,"