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Can Eating Earlier in the Day Help You Lose More Weight?

By Elisa - Jenny Craig


If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re likely not a stranger to thinking about what you eat during the day, but are you thinking about when you eat? A common pitfall during weight loss is to start off the day motivated, thinking that a small breakfast and salad for lunch will put you on the right track. The trouble happens when the hunger pangs start mid-afternoon and then the motivation wanes. Succumbing to the hunger, a large dinner and unhealthy snacking in the evening may be the way the day ends, which offsets all of the effort you put into the beginning of the day. Sound familiar?


There may be a solution for this; try eating more, earlier in the day. Read on to discover how front-loading your calories could aid in your weight loss efforts with helpful tips that you can start implementing today.

Research supports eating early

Research has shown that people have a better chance of losing weight if they eat earlier in the day.1 Why? Because eating earlier can help you feel more satiated in the evening, which can prevent overeating at night. Since your body is primed to burn more calories in the morning than at night, by eating earlier in the day, you’re working with your metabolism and leveraging your natural fat burning abilities.


EatEarly_LateNightSnacks.jpgOne study followed 420 overweight and obese individuals over a 20-week period. Some of the individuals were early eaters, which meant that they ate lunch before 3 p.m., and others were late eaters, eating lunch after 3 p.m. The study found that the late eaters lost less weight than the early eaters (17 versus 22 pounds on average).2 Additionally, the evening eaters lost weight more slowly than their earlier counterparts. What made these findings telling? Both groups ate the same number of calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein.


Another study followed 1,400 overweight women with metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions that occur together such as increased blood pressure, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels which increase your risk for heart disease among other diseases3) for 12 weeks. They all followed identical diets, with one fundamental difference. One group had a 700-calorie breakfast and a 200-calorie dinner, while the other had a 200-calorie breakfast and a 700-calorie dinner.


The women who ate more in the morning lost two and a half times more weight than the group who ate most of their calories at night.4 But weight loss wasn’t the only benefit the early eaters experienced: they also lost more inches around their waist, saw a 33% drop in triglyceride levels (which is an indicator of heart disease) and saw a more significant decrease in fasting glucose, insulin and insulin resistance scores – all of which, when are at elevated levels, may contribute to the development of diabetes.5

The science of your circadian rhythm

These studies are a part of a growing body of research that suggests when you eat is as important as what you eat. This relates to the science of your body’s circadian rhythm, or natural internal clock, which is the physical, behavioral and mental changes that occur in response to light and darkness during a 24-hour cycle.6


Due to circadian rhythm, your body experiences variations in hormone, enzyme and glucose levels throughout the day.7


These changes can affect how you process calories, fat and carbohydrates. Following your circadian rhythm, your body burns more calories in the morning from digesting and absorbing the nutrients in your food than it does later in the day.8


Jenny Craig’s newest program, Rapid Results, leverages your natural circadian rhythm in conjunction with a nutritionally sound meal plan which can lead to accelerated weight loss. Members can lose up to 16 pounds in just 4 weeks. First 4 weeks only. Average weight loss in study was 11.6 lbs. for those who completed the program. Additionally, research demonstrates that there are additional health benefits of following your body’s circadian rhythm and taking a break from digestion (which includes sleep time9-10), such as improvements in immune function and mood, management of appetite and hunger11, preservation of muscle mass12 and potentially decreased risk of dementia.13 Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that the reduction in belly fat that comes from taking a digestion break also decreases the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.14

4 easy tips for eating with your circadian rhythm

Eating in sync with your circadian rhythm can lead to weight loss success, but what’s the best way to do it? Follow these four tips to eat when your metabolism is working most efficiently: 

#1. Don’t skip breakfast

EatEarly_DontSkipBreakfast.jpgBreakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. For maximum impact, pick a breakfast that is at least 300 calories and includes fiber, carbohydrates and protein.


Need some help with breakfast planning? Try a cup of oatmeal with low-fat milk and a handful of nuts or a two-egg veggie omelet with fruit and a slice of whole-wheat toast on the side.


If you’re following the Rapid Results program, our Egg, Cheese, & Turkey Sausage Burrito is a delicious and easy option.

#2. Include a substantial, balanced lunch

Just like breakfast, eating lunch is important to keep you satisfied during the day, so don’t settle for only a small salad. Try filling half of your plate with non-starchy veggies, a fourth with lean protein such as grilled chicken and the remaining fourth with substantial carbs such as rice or legumes.


If you love salads, try adding chicken and including a side such as a broth-based soup. If you’re a sandwich fan, pair one with soup or veggies with hummus. The goal is to create a healthy, filling and well-balanced meal.


If you’re following the Rapid Results program, try our delicious Classic Cheeseburger or Turkey and Wild Rice with a side salad and Jenny Craig dressing.

#3. Remember snacks

EatEarly_Snacks.jpgKeep your metabolism working with a nutritious snack. Spacing a couple of snacks throughout your day – mid-morning and afternoon – is a great way to keep your metabolism humming. Try to pick a snack that is around 200 calories and contains fiber and protein.


A few examples include an apple with 1 ½ teaspoons of nut butter, a hard-boiled egg, or low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt with fruit. If you’re on the Jenny Craig program, try the Anytime Bars and Chocolate Dream Shakes.

#4. Review your dinner choices

EatEarly_HealthyDinner.jpgAs your metabolism starts winding down from the afternoon into the night, it is important to keep your evening meals light and healthy. A couple ideas are fish and cooked vegetables or a turkey burger with a salad and light dressing. Don’t forget to eat dinner early, if you want to stay aligned with your metabolism!


If you’re following the Rapid Results program, you can enjoy favorites such as Chicken Fettuccine or Loaded Baked Potato with a side salad.


When you keep your meals in sync with your circadian rhythm, you’ll find that your weight loss and health goals may become more attainable. By using these tips, you’ll be working with your metabolism by eating food when your body is burning calories with more efficiency. Try taking the first step by planning your meals and snacks within a 12-hour period to align with your circadian rhythm. You may find additional health benefits beyond just weight loss!


Do you need help on your weight loss journey? Jenny Craig’s award-winning program is based on scientific research and great results. Contact us today for your free appointment.


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Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 23, no. 6, 14 June 2016, pp. 1048–1059., doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001.

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/19/health/weight-loss-circadian-rhythms-drayer/index.html

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23357955

[3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20351916

[4] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20460/abstract

[5] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance

[6] https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.aspx

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372003/ 

[8] https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/10/389596946/circadian-surprise-how-our-body-clocks-help-shape-our-waistlines

[9] Vyazovskiy, Vladyslav. “Sleep, recovery, and metaregulation: explaining the benefits of sleep.” Nature and Science of Sleep, 17 Dec. 2015, p. 171-184., doi:10.2147/nss.s54036. 

[10] Cirelli, Chiara, and Giulio Tononi. “Is Sleep Essential?” PLoS Biology, vol. 6, no. 8, 2008, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060216. 

[11] Peterson, C. Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “Time-Restricted Feeding Increases Fat Oxidation and Reduces Swings in Appetite Levels in Humans.” Oral abstract presentation at: The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeekSM 2016; October 31 – November 4, 2016. www.obesityweek.com.

[12] Moro, Tatiana, et al. “Effects of eight weeks of time-Restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-Trained males.” Journal of Translational Medicine, vol. 14, no. 1, 2016, doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0. 

[13] Peterson, C. Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “Time-Restricted Feeding Increases Fat Oxidation and Reduces Swings in Appetite Levels in Humans.” Oral abstract presentation at: The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeekSM 2016; October 31 – November 4, 2016. www.obesityweek.com.

[14] Chaix, Amandine, et al. “Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 20, no. 6, 2 Dec. 2014, pp. 991–1005., doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2014.11.001.

Elisa Hoffman

Elisa Hoffman, Senior Content Manager at Jenny Craig

Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.

Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple



This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals. 


Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy. 


This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.


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