Aligning meal times to better match the body’s natural internal clock can optimize metabolic resources and improve metabolism, shows a recent study from the University at Alabama at Birmingham.

The small study followed 11 overweight individuals over two sets of four days. Investigators modified standard eating times to measure swings in hunger & fat/carbohydrate burning patterns. The study was the first human test of its kind, putting subjects through four days when eating was restricted between 8 am and 2 pm, followed by four days of eating between 8 am and 8 pm.

During the first testing period, subjects who followed the short eating window with an 18-hour fast demonstrated less fluctuations in appetite throughout the day, diminished intensity of hunger swings & increased fat burning at night compared to subjects during the latter testing period. This may be due to staggering meal times to match the body’s higher mid-day basal metabolic rate, but further study is required to verify these findings.

While the small sample size means there is still much more work to do on the subject, this study marks the beginning of a better clinical understanding about how to best modify eating schedules to match daily metabolic demands in human (non-rat) bodies. Time-staggered eating, along with its analog intermittent fasting, has been shown to not only improve our relationship to hunger, but to also boost cardiovascular adaptations to stress. These findings suggest powerful new implications for modulating how (and when) we eat.

For the health conscious, observing how your eating habits, hunger levels & corresponding levels of energy are affected by modulating your “eating window” can be helpful in dialing in your diet. To learn more, head on over to our Intermittent Fasting and Health Impacts of Fasting Quizzes.

Does packing your meals earlier in the day make your body feel better, or do you prefer a more even distribution of meal times? Let us know!