Holiday revelers who center celebrations around elaborate dinners may be heartened by recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research indicating that people burn about 130 more calories right around dinnertime.
The research, published in Current Biology, aimed to map metabolic rates and pinpoint the times of day when people burn the greatest number of calories while at rest. The BWH team recruited seven study participants to spend over a month in a windowless lab with no clocks—effectively eliminating external cues indicating when to sleep or eat. Instead, they followed specific schedules that put them in bed four hours later than the night before, mimicking the experience of traveling around the world in a week.
“Because they were doing the equivalent of circling the globe every week, their bodies’ internal clocks could not keep up,” explains senior study author Jeanne Duffy, MBA, PhD, a neuroscientist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at BWH.
Without an internal clock, participants ran on purely “biological” time which revealed to researchers when metabolism peaked. They found that participants burned around 10 percent more calories in the late afternoon and early evening than in early morning.
These results, notes Dr. Duffy, could help provide helpful context around healthy weight management. “Since weight gain happens when we consume more calories than we burn, knowing when we burn more calories can help us time meals accordingly,” she says.