When the Clock Counts Calories Too

“A calorie is a calorie is a calorie – it doesn’t matter what time the clock says – your body doesn’t know the difference,” says the elusive “they.” Who are “they” anyways and, what’s the truth – really?

For anyone who is struggling with weight management, you may want to examine your eating schedule – it has been studied before and studied again – researchers have uncovered further evidence that yes, indeed, late night snacking packs on the pounds.

The study, published late last week in Cell Metabolism, compared the impact, in mice, of eating high-fat meals around the clock versus limited to an eight-hour time-frame. The mice that were fed the high-fat meals and dined around the clock experienced the adverse effects commonly associated with a high-fat diet. On the other hand, the mice consuming a high-fat diet that were limited to an 8-hour period of consumption, saw a 28 percent decrease in weight gain compared to the previous group.

This research group is looking to experiment with additional testing on mice to determine if limiting consumption to 10 or 12 hour periods will be equally as effective. Following the results of these tests, a study will be planned on humans.

What does this mean to you?

If you love late-night snacking, you are going to have to put down the pizza or cookies or crackers – even the glass of warm milk or red wine – because those calories are doing some serious damage. First, these “after-hours” calories are raising glucose levels and keeping your gut and other systems awake and alert when they should be using your sleep time to slow down and repair. Next, your body doesn’t burn much fat after eating – if you are not up and about burning those calories, they are sticking – and in all the wrong places. Finally, your body likes routine – eat at the same times every day and your body knows what to expect. Late night eating often occurs at odd hours, intermittently throwing a curve ball at your metabolism and decreasing efficiency.

The lead author of the study also pointed out to Decoded Science, “… we are designed and wired for overnight fasting. For millions of years humans were strictly diurnal species eating most of their food during the day.”

The study is hopeful that this information will be effective in helping the nation cope with the growing obesity epidemic. In this study, weight gain was reduced 50 percent more than the most effective weight loss drug on the market and without adverse side effects. Researchers also observed a reduction in markers of chronic conditions and disease with this eating method, including reduced basal (at rest) blood glucose, cholesterol, inflammation and fat deposits.

Author’s Note

I was ecstatic to see the results of this study and I am looking forward to the continued research fueled by this project.  For years, I have advised my clients to eat small, healthy meals – at the same times each day – beginning within one hour of waking and ending approximately no less than three to four hours prior to bed. I call it “eating by the clock” – a theory that operates on a 12-hour schedule of timed consumption. I found this personally effective when I dropped 35 pounds over the course of eight months, combined with exercise. I still believe this is the most effective way to eat, although challenging with most on-the-go lifestyles.

The perspective of the lead on this study, hinges on hope for those who cannot control their consumption of high-fat foods. These mice, living on high-fat diets, benefited from eating exclusively during an eight-hour time period. It is definitely good news for these individuals lacking self-control, but that doesn’t mean you should make the drive-thru your staple consumption source across an 8-hour period – there are still plenty of risks with that type of diet.

If healthy weight management or weight loss are your goals, you may find it more effective to consume a balanced diet of healthy foods, including the “good” fats, fiber, lean proteins and vegetables at routine intervals within an 8 to 12 hour time frame.



  1. Thanks for the great reading. I value your opinion as well as the links to the external documents.

    1. Thanks so much!! 🙂

  2. Dolores Cribbs · · Reply

    I love the article eating by the clock. It confirms my thoughts on late night eating and eating at regular times expecially for those with diabetes or a tendency because of genes , pre-diabetic.
    Thanks for the info.

    1. Thank you! Yes, I am so excited about this study. This is ground-breaking research that can really help evolve the way the health industry teaches people to eat.

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