Between meetings and deadlines, it’s easy to work well into the afternoon without realizing you haven’t had lunch yet. (Cue the stomach grumblings.) No problem. You’ll just have that grilled chicken salad you brought from home and all is good, right?
Not quite. According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, you really should be eating before 3 p.m. if you’re trying to lose weight.
Scientifically speaking, this is because hunger is controlled by circadian rhythms (your internal clock). So when you eat later in the day, your body may have a more difficult time processing the calories. Realistically speaking, if you wait until you realize that you’re ravenous, that salad is going to look much less appealing and you’ll be more likely to cave when that platter of cookies goes around the office.
So will eating lunch earlier than 3 p.m. guarantee weight loss? Not on its own. Scaling back on the number of calories you take in and increasing your activity levels are still the most important factors. However, it is a good place to start—especially if you’ve been leading a pretty healthy lifestyle for a couple weeks and haven’t been seeing any results.