Revealed: the best time to stop eating if you want to maximise weight loss

Giving your body a fasting period to break down fat is one method of losing weight (Credits: Getty Images)

The practice of intermittent fasting has been gaining traction in recent years as an effective way to stimulate weight loss.

It’s supposed to help make the body more efficient in how it burns and uses fuel, rather than forcing it to lose weight.

The idea is to go without food for a prolonged period of time – say, 14 hours – to force your body to start devouring fat.

It takes up to about five hours for the body to finish absorbing and digesting and after that period, it goes into a ‘post-absorptive state’, which lasts up to 12 hours after your meal.

That’s when you enter a fasted state – and it’s then that your body finds it easier to burn fat because your insuline levels are low.

Whether or not it works, well…there are arguments both for and against taking up intermittent fasting.

But if you do want to give it a go, there’s some new research that suggests you should probably stop eating after 3pm to have the best chance of dropping the kilos.

Researchers from the University of Alabama worked with 90 obese people, putting them all on a diet but telling half they could only eat between 7am and 3pm.

Both groups received expert guidance on how to follow a diet, were told to stick to it for at least six days a week, and to do between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise a week.

According to the results, the people who stopped eating at 3pm lost almost a stone (6.4kg) over 14 weeks.

The other group lost just nine pounds (4kg) in the same time.

‘The effects were equivalent to reducing calorie intake by an additional 214 calories per day,’ the scientists wrote in their paper, which has been published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

As well as dropping more weight, the fasting group also recorded an improved blood pressure and better moods.

The researchers said a routine of stopping at 3pm was ‘feasible’ and the participants managed to stick to it even with full-time jobs and social commitments.

‘We found that [early time-restricted eating] was acceptable for many patients. About 41 per cent of completers in the control group planned to continue practising [early time-restricted eating] after the study concluded,’ the authors explained.

The science is not yet conclusive on whether intermittent fasting actually works (Picture: Getty)

Sadly, before you start ditching the evening meal entirely, the jury is still out on whether or not intermittent fasting really works in the long run.

These US results are just the latest in a back-and-forth over the best way to drop weight.

An earlier study, also published in the JAMA Network Open, tested a 16:8 eating pattern (between midday and 8pm) and found there was ‘no evidence that time-restricted eating works as a weight loss strategy.

This study started in 2018 when researchers recruited 116 people who were overweight or obese. All the participants received a Bluetooth-connected scale, and were asked to exercise as they normally would. 

People who were assigned to eat only within the strict eight-hour window each day, lost an average of around 2 pounds over a 12 week-period.

People who ate at normal meal times, with snacks permitted, lost 1.5 pounds. The difference was not ‘statistically significant,’ according to the team of scientists at University of California, San Francisco who carried out the study.

So, as with every diet or lifestyle change – find out what works for you and don’t get too bogged down in what the latest science says.


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