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Best time of day for calories?

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The way my busy days shake out, I wind up consuming the largest portion of my calories in the evening.  My daily goal is 2000 and I take in almost half of that with a 6:30 p.m. dinner (600-700 cal) and an 8:30 snack and/or glass of wine (200-300 cal).  Thus far, my 1000 cal per day deficit is working like magic as I'm watching the scale move about 2 lbs. per week.

My question is this - would I be more effective in doing a more even spread of calories and shifting more to earlier in the day?  My thought is that if it ain't broke don't fix it.  I must say that my hunger has been very manageable and not an issue at all.



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Calories don't change based on when you eat them.

Yes, eating more ealier will keep your body fueled, and give you more energy, you'll feel better, and your metabolism will be up, which will actually result in your body burning more calories. This has been discussed many times BTW.

Bulk up on the calories in the morning, preferably kick in your metabolism within the first hour of waking up. Then start to taper as the day progresses ... 

Your body responds best to even fueling throughout the day. You rev up your metabolism by eating protein, carbs and good fats many times throughout the day (every 2.5-3 hours) starting with breakfast within 1 hour of waking.

For me, it also depends on what I am eating and when. For example, if I eat a pasta dinner at 8 p.m. with a glass of wine I will gain weight. However, if I eat the pasta at lunch and then something light at 8 p.m., I am fine and won't gain as my body has had enough time to digest the pasta and use it for fuel.

Bottom line, everyone's body responds differently to food. If this works for you and you're losing weight and feel energized throughout the day, then keep at it. If you hit a plateau you may want to try to mix it up a bit and try spacing things out differently. Good luck!

It might be somewhat better to eat more evenly throughout the day.  But I've lost weight regularly for over a year eating most of my calories after 6pm.  As long as you eat something balanced for breakfast and lunch and don't let yourself get so hungry you over-eat at night, you ought to be fine.

As long as you are eating at a deficit and getting the proper nutrition, it doesn't actually matter all when you eat your calories- it's relative to what works for you. 

With that said, eating throughout the day can help keep your energy levels up and prevent late-night overeating. Eating breakfast helps to kick start your metabolism.

On my personal experience it seems like it's better to spread out calories through the day... The biggest meal for me is lunch then and for dinner I would usually just eat some steamed veggies and that's it...

Those stuck on a 24 hour model of energy expenditure would say timing of energy intake doesnt matter as long as the total calories for the day are in a deficit. But who ever decided that the body operates on a 24-hour “DAY”?

Try this test (or not!): Eat a 2000 calorie per day diet, with nothing for breakfast, nothing before or after your workout, 400 calories for lunch, 550 calories for dinner and 1050 calories before bedtime.

Now compare that to the SAME 2000 calorie diet with 5 small meals of approximately 400 calories per meal and then tweak those meal sizes a bit so that you eat a little more before and after your workout and a little less later at night.

Both are 2000 calories per day. According to “24 hour energy balance” thinking, both diets will produce the same results in performance, health and body composition. But will they?

Does your body really do a calculation at midnight and add up the day’s totals like a business man when he closes out the register at night? It’s a lot more logical that energy is stored in real time and energy is burned in real time, rather than accounted for at the end of each 24 hour period.

24 hour energy balance is just one way to academically sort calories so you can understand it and count it in convenient units of time. This has it’s uses, as in calculating a daily calorie intake level for menu planning purposes.

Original Post by downdeep:

Both are 2000 calories per day. According to “24 hour energy balance” thinking, both diets will produce the same results in performance, health and body composition. But will they?

Nobody claims those will produce the same results in performance.  They claim it will produce the same results in weight loss.  Obviously if you try to exercise without fuel, your performance will suffer.  And if you don't eat something after exercising, your body won't have the raw materials to rebuild damaged muscle tissue. 

My dietician doesn't eat her breakfast till she's been up about 2 hours or more. She said eating less in the AM and more in the PM is OK if that works for you. She's lean and fit and healthy. I was happy to hear that as I naturally am not hungry most mornings for an hour or two - even though I normally don't eat 2 or 3 hours before bedtime thanks to GERD. If I eat first thing in the AM, and eat a "hearty" breakfast, I am likely to have two reactions: may feel sick and tend to get hungrier and want to eat more across the day. It's easier for me to feel better and eat less by following what my body wants. Even Dr Oz said it's total intake and output and not magickal times of day, BUT hydration during workouts and some protein after work to help lose fat and save muscle. Do what works best for you to feel good and cntorl your eating.

Ah, the time of day=change in metabolism debate. First of all, if you aren't eating breakfast at all, the 'start your metabolism' argument might have feet to stand on. Otherwise, not so much. In my experience and reading, the metabolic effect of spacing out calories unevenly (as long as it's not a restrict-binge cycle) is minimal. And one of the most useful lessons I've learned about getting healthier is that most of the time the right answer is the one you can consistently do long term.


Personally I find If I eat more in the morning I am hungrier all day long. Then I eat bigger snacks and meals all day long, I usually eat about 5-6 times a day most times 200-300 cals and and dinner gets the extra. I say do what feels most successful. I tried Eating dinner first thing in the morning and then eating smaller lighter meals/snacks all day long, I'd eat the same amount and feel deprived as the day went on, and it made no difference in my weight loss. I say do what works best for you, just be sure your not oer eating and you will be fine. Sarah

12 Replies