Prolonged Snacking

Author: Julie Shatzel, MD

A recent study published in Cell Metabolism September 2015, determined that most of us are eating longer than 15 hours a day.  The eating duration of 15 hours is derived from when a person takes their first bite of nutrition or a sip of a beverage in the morning, to the very last bite or drink they have that day.  This interval of time, is their “eating time”.  You might be surprised to find that this may also reflect your habits one or two days a week or possibly even more days than that.  What was also a surprising result, was that a majority of the participants were eating over a third of their calories after 6pm.  That makes a mighty heavy load for the digestive organs to handle that late in the day.  This prolonged eating and snacking time of over 15 hours a day translates into dampening a person’s metabolism.  We know that exercise fuels metabolism, and so does something else, shortening that long cycle of eating.  Researchers in this same study, used a mobile app to curb their participants eating time down to a shorter duration than their baseline, to fuel their metabolism.  By altering that long snacking cycle, reducing it down from the 15 hours a day, the effect on metabolism was similar to what exercise does for the body, burns fat.
Thus, the question of ‘when’ we are eating is also an indicator of the effectiveness of our metabolism. The moment that first bite or sip is taken in the morning, signals the start of the circadian clock for our body’s internal rhythm, and that clock keeps ticking until that last bite or sip of nutrients in the evening. The longer that stretch of time from beginning of nutrient intake to the very end, which in some individuals is right up until bedtime, makes metabolism less efficient, and that translates to weight gain.
More than half of us are already replacing at least one meal a day with a snack, (Nielsen data) the idea of three square meals a day is really something that seems to have fallen out of practicality. For many of us, this data shows, evening time eating is when we tend to indulge the most. Our last meal of the day and after meal caloric intake is high, and late.  If we are able to tighten that eating time frame up a bit, to closer to 12 hours a day, scientific evidence now proves, you’ll be speeding up your metabolism, and burning that fat.
By focusing on reducing our ‘time of eating’ especially in the evening, is just as important as ‘what we are eating.’  So the next time you feel guilty for skipping your daily exercise, think of the new way to boost metabolism by moving up your dinner time and dessert.  Remember the key to this study was that participants didn’t have to adjust or scrutinize their food, they kept eating the same portions and types of food, but by reducing their total eating time, as confirmed by the metabolism app, they were able to lose weight.
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