Changing the time you eat your meals could be key to reducing body fat, a new report claims.
According to a 10-week study into “time-restricted feeding” led by the University of Surrey, meal times can have a significant impact on body composition.
Unlike other studies into this particular type of intermittent fasting, participants were not required to follow a particular diet and could eat whatever they wanted, so long as it was within a specific window.
Researchers split participants into two groups: a control group who ate their meals as they normally would and another group who were required to eat their breakfast 90 minutes later than normal while also eating their dinner 90 minutes earlier.
Each participant also completed diet diaries throughout the experiment, provided blood samples beforehand and completed a questionnaire afterwards.
The results showed that those who stuck to eating within a specific window lost more than twice as much body fat on average than the control group.
The questionnaire also revealed that 57 per cent of participants in the study group noticed a reduction in their food consumption, either due to decreased appetite or reduced snacking as a result of the restrictive time period in which they were allowed to eat.
Following the study, researchers examined whether this form of intermittent fasting was sustainable in the long term.
However, more than half (57 per cent) of participants in the fasting group said they wouldn’t be able to maintain their restrictive eating window due to it being incompatible with their family and social lives.
On the other hand, 43 per cent said they would consider maintaining the plan if there was more flexibility with regards to eating times.
“Although this study is small, it has provided us with invaluable insight into how slight alterations to our meal times can have benefits to our bodies,” explains lead author Dr Jonathan Johnston, reader in chronobiology and integrative physiology at the University of Surrey.
“Reduction in body fat lessens our chances of developing obesity and related diseases, so is vital in improving our overall health.
“However, as we have seen with these participants, fasting diets are difficult to follow and may not always be compatible with family and social life. We therefore need to make sure they are flexible and conducive to real life, as the potential benefits of such diets are clear to see.
“We are now going to use these preliminary findings to design larger, more comprehensive studies of time-restricted feeding”.
It’s not the first time intermittent fasting has been linked to promoting fat loss.
In 2012, the 5:2 Diet surged in popularity, advocating structuring your week around five “normal” days of eating and two “fasted” days when you’re advised to limit your food intake to 500-600 calories.
The study was based on a sample of 16 healthy people between the ages of 29 and 57.