So you started trying to make a lifestyle change to lose weight, but you are not sure if it matters when you eat on a calorie deficit.
There are many people out there who say to not eat during certain times of the day. Some say to never eat breakfast, while some people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Some people divide their meals up into six small meals, and some others eat three meals only per day. Some people snack, and some swear off snacking completely.
Let’s dive into the real truth here. Let’s find out if it actually matters when you eat in your calorie deficit.
When is the best time to eat during a calorie deficit?
When is the best time to eat on a calorie deficit? The answer is…whenever you feel like it. It does not matter when you eat on a calorie deficit. We have to remember, that a calorie deficit works based on the principle only. There is no way of getting around this as it is the way our bodies work. It does not matter when you eat on a calorie deficit, it only matters that you burn more calories than you consume.
If you are not sure of the basic principles of a calorie deficit and need to learn more, you can learn more by reading the article below.
Related article: Calorie deficit basics
I used to get very hung up on this and it is because over the years there has been so much information spread about on the topic of when the best time to eat is for fat loss. The majority of this information isn’t true as many people have had success without eating at specific times of the day.
I remember when it used to seem like common knowledge that if you ate before bed, that all of that food that you were eating would be stored as fat, and you would not be able to burn it off. I used to not eat a single crumb of food four hours before bedtime due to reading this. I am so glad those days are over. I have eaten before bed many, many times and still had amazing results.
I would have to say that I actually do the majority of my eating in between 6pm and 11pm and I still am able to lose weight and keep it off. I do not believe in restrictions. We have to think of this as a healthy lifestyle change to be successful.
Now, it is true that it does not matter when you eat to lose weight, but this does not mean that we can not explore some ideas and methods based around when we eat. Let’s explore this some more.
Different methods-when to eat on a calorie deficit
I will start out by stating that the methods I am about to explain, you are not REQUIRED to do in order to lose weight and get in shape. They are merely tools for you to use. Using one of these methods will not make you lose any weight faster, and not using them will not prevent you from losing weight.
Intermittent fasting during a calorie deficit
Intermittent fasting is a trend that I actually use to this day, and it is not because I was able to lose weight more efficiently while doing it, it is simply because it is what works best for my schedule and when I want to eat.
I do want to start out by saying that this type of eating method is NOT for everyone. Individuals with certain conditions such as diabetes, younger individuals/children, pregnant individuals, and those of you on certain medications should definitely consult with your doctor before starting any new timed eating plan or weight loss plan.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern in which you do not consume any calories at all for a set period of time. This period usually lasts between 12 and 40 hours. You are able to consume drinks such as water, but nothing caffeinated. Now this may seem extreme to some, but this is just a guideline, and intermittent fasting is able to be done in a variety of different ways and has its benefits.
There are many different types of intermittent fasting, for example, there is the “Eat Stop Eat” method in which you would fast for 24 hours once or twice per week. Some may say that this has its benefits, but I just do not see that it is necessary for most.
There is also another type of intermittent fasting called the 5:2 method in which you eat as you usually do five days out of the week and restrict your caloric intake to 500–600 calories on the remaining two days. I am not going to discuss these methods because any further as I do not personally use them and do not feel the majority of you will either.
I do not feel that these methods would provide much benefit for someone who is starting a new lifestyle change by starting a calorie deficit, which is its own adjustment.
I will, however, now speak about the exact method I use and why I like using this method of fasting for myself.
Fasting for 12 hours per day in a calorie deficit
This is the type of intermittent fasting that I recommend doing, because it works well for most people and their lifestyle.
The reason that I use this method is because it aligns well with my work schedule. I work during the day so this method works perfectly for me. I will stop eating around 10-11pm and then I will not eat again until the next day at my lunch time which is 1:30 PM. This gives me a fasting time of around 14-16 hours depending on when I take my lunch.
It is an adjustment at first, but you will be able to get used to it after a week or so. Again, I do not feel like this method helped me lose any more weight than I would have if not doing it, it just works for me. Sometimes I will also just decide to not use this method, especially if I am on vacation or not working. I do find after doing this for awhile though, it becomes automatic and I do not think about it.
Another big reason that I use this method of intermittent fasting in my calorie deficit is because it allows me to save up most of my calories for later in the day and evening. This is the time where I like to relax and unwind.
I was never a big breakfast person, mostly because I am never hungry when I wake up in the morning. I do love me some breakfast foods such as eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon and all of the other good stuff, but during the work week I just do not care to eat breakfast.
I feel better when I have calories left over in my allotment to be able to enjoy them later in the day when I am home and not having to eat very low in calories to maintain my deficit that I set for myself for the day.
It gives me something to look forward to knowing that I can go home and still have enough calories left to watch my favorite show and have a few snacks. I am a big advocate for snacking. I love to snack and I think having snacks throughout the day that are healthy and low in calories will make you feel more satisfied and suffer from less cravings.
Benefits of intermittent fasting during a calorie deficit
The main benefits of trying this method of intermittent fasting are chances of improved memory, having a healthy heart with improved blood pressure and heart rate, improved physical performance, and prevention of diabetes.
There are studies that show these benefits could exist (see link above), but it is also important to know that some of these studies were also used on lab mice and certain animals, so you may not have all of these benefits occur for yourself, but you may like the timed approach of eating during your calorie deficit.
So there we have it, intermittent fasting can be an option for you if you want to try a new timed approach to eating. Like I said, this is one of the options for you, but it is not a necessity. You can still lose weight without trying any of these methods.
Eating before bedtime on a calorie deficit
Like I discussed earlier, eating before bedtime is not going to ruin any progress you have made, and it is not going to prevent you from making progress when trying to lose weight.
Eating before bedtime may actually have its benefits as well, such as weight loss, sleeping better, and maintaining blood sugar levels.
This does not mean that you should eat your main dinner every single night before bed, but if you did you would STILL lose weight, as long as you maintained a caloric deficit.
I will say that I do not recommend eating very heavily before bedtime, as you could end up having some pretty terrible bouts of heartburn.
So, does it matter when you eat on a calorie deficit? The answer is no. You are able to eat whenever you would like and you will still have success.
It is best to not get hung up on this, and if you are obsessed on the timing of your meals, don’t be. You can rest assured knowing that you do not have to limit yourself. Life is busy enough, eat when you want to and be happy.
Always remember to make sure when you first start out tracking your calories that you do a weekly or bi-weekly weigh in to make sure the calorie deficit you set for yourself is adequate and that nothing needs to be adjusted. If you continue to gain weight, you are NOT in a calorie deficit. This is not due to when you are eating, but only due to the fact that you may need to adjust your deficit amount a bit.