Jan. 20, 2013 at 12:55 PM ET
Maybe you've seen the headlines: Eat most of your carbs at night, lose more weight! According to researchers at Hebrew University, that meal plan reduced daytime hunger and helped people lose 20 percent more weight than going on a traditional low-calorie diet.
In the study, researchers split 78 Israeli police officers into two groups and placed them on nearly identical 6-month-long low-calorie diets (1,300 to 1,500 calories a day) eating equal amount of carbs, protein, and fat throughout the day. The only difference: Half of the officers ate the majority of their carbs at night while the other half ate them throughout the day. At the start and end of the study, researchers analyzed blood hormone levels while the cops recorded their hunger levels.
The results: Nighttime carb eaters lost 27 percent more body fat than people on the standard diet. Surprisingly, they also felt 13.7 percent fuller at the end of the study than the beginning, while regular dieters were hungrier. What's more, the level of inflammatory hormones -- which can lead to heart disease and cancer -- in the nighttime group's blood decreased by 27.8 percent compared to only 5.8 percent in the standard dieters. (Are you in denial? Discover the 5 Worst Excuses for Getting Fat.)
But we weren't sold, since most research shows the the timing of your meals matters less than your overall nutritional intake. So we consulted with Alan Aragon, M.S., Men's Health nutrition advisor, to get to the bottom of things. His take? It's important to note that researchers didn't track the cops' physical activity, and officers self-reported how much they ate. In other words, we don't really know what they ate--or if their weight loss came from exercise instead of diet, says Aragon.
The bottom line: "Studies like this are useful for challenging the old dogma that carbs in the evening make you fat," but so long as you nail your protein, carb, and fat totals by the end of the day, you should time your meals according to personal preference, Aragon says. Diets that require you to time your meals are notoriously hard to follow (and usually not effective), Aragon says.
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