Knowing the best times to eat for weight loss can be challenging, as you’ve probably heard a lot of contradicting information.

Properly planning meals is the key to effective weight loss and keeping the weight off.

A few simple meal planning tips can help you learn more about the best times to eat for weight loss and get on the road toward success!

 

The Importance of Meal Timing for Weight Loss

Setting a regular meal schedule keeps your metabolism going strong, energy levels high, and your appetite in check during weight loss.

Meal planning, which involves setting the times you should eat throughout the day, makes it easier to control calories for effective weight loss.

Regardless of when you wake up and head to bed each night, be sure your eating pattern fits in with your everyday routine and you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

 

Should I Eat Breakfast?

Studies are mixed when it comes to eating breakfast.

One 2019 review published in BMJ found that while studies show inconsistent results, eating breakfast may not be a good weight loss strategy.

But another study published in 2017 in Plos One found that skipping breakfast is associated with being less active and increases in abdominal obesity.

Whether or not to eat breakfast depends on what time you wake up, how long you wait to eat after rolling out of bed, and how hungry you are when you wake up.

Not eating breakfast when you feel hungry could negatively affect your metabolism, make you feel physically or mentally sluggish, or cause you to overeat during your next meal.

 

Should I Try Fasting?

As with eating breakfast, research studies that investigate fasting show mixed results too.

One 2019 review published in Current Obesity Reports found that intermittent fasting is often effective for weight loss (at least short term).

But the researchers also discovered that continuous energy restriction, or slightly reducing your calories every day during weight loss, is also an effective weight loss strategy.

There are numerous ways to achieve intermittent fasting, and some strategies make regular workouts and mental focus more difficult.

For example, exercising in the morning without eating can enhance fat loss, but may also hinder exercise performance.

Fasting for long time periods is often associated with physical and mental fatigue.

If fasting is the easiest way for you to reduce your overall calorie intake, give it a try.

But if you prefer eating at regular time intervals to keep energy levels high and maximize exercise performance, opt for continuous calorie restriction by reducing your daily intake by 500-1,000 calories.

A more conservative method of fasting is to eat only during an 8-hour window, such as from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm or from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm every day.

 

How Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?

The time you wake up and head to bed each night affects when and how often you should eat.

Sleep at least 7 hours a night to keep appetite hormones within a normal, healthy range.

Studies show that sleep deprivation, or consistently sleeping less than 6.5 hours each night, is associated with weight gain over time, lower cognitive function, and higher rates of insulin resistance compared to people who sleep at least 7 hours every night.

To ensure you're getting a good night's sleep, go to bed at the same time each night, sleep in a cool dark room, use a white noise machine if necessary, avoid caffeine and naps late in the day, and keep stress levels low.

Planning Your Meals Around the Best Times to Eat for Weight Loss

Everybody is different, which is why personalized meal plans designed around the best times to eat for weight loss work best.

Whether you’re an early riser or night owl, use the sample meal plans below to steer you in the right direction and get excess weight off without feeling deprived.

 

How Many Meals and Snacks Should I Eat?

As a rule, aim to eat 5-6 small meals or snacks daily for effective weight loss.

Research shows that:

  • A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that eating three meals plus two snacks daily helps you maintain a healthy weight.
  • A 2017 study published in Public Health Nutrition reports that eating more than four meals daily (three meals plus two snacks) is associated with lower rates of abdominal obesity.
  • A study published in 2014 in the International Cardiovascular Research Journal shows that eating six meals daily, each containing about the same number of calories, is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI).

Space meals and snacks apart evenly throughout the day (every few hours) to keep energy levels high and prevent you from feeling deprived during weight loss.

 

How Often Should I Drink Water?

Drinking enough water is crucial for effective weight loss.

Women need about 12 cups of total fluids daily.

It’s important to drink water when you first wake up each morning to help your body re-hydrate, keep your metabolism going strong, boost satiety without extra calories, and prevent you from overeating during your first meal of the day.

Studies show that drinking about 2 cups of water 30 minutes before meals helps accelerate weight loss.

 

The Best Times to Eat for Weight Loss for Early Risers

If you wake up early for work, have young children, or you simply are a morning person, consider the following weight-loss meal schedule for early risers:

  • 5:00-6:00 am: wake up and drink 2-4 cups of water
  • 7:00 am: breakfast
  • 9:00-10:00 am: mid-morning snack
  • Noon: lunch
  • 2:00-3:00 pm: afternoon snack
  • 5:00-6:00 pm: dinner
  • 8:00 pm: evening snack (optional)
  • 9:00-10:00 pm: bedtime

*If you’re not hungry before bedtime, skip the optional evening snack.

 

The Best Times to Eat for Weight Loss for 9-5ers

If you wake up a little later in the morning to head to work or you function at your best from 9-5, try the following weight-loss meal schedule for 9-5ers:

  • 7:00 am: wake up and drink 2-4 cups of water
  • 8:00 am: breakfast
  • 10:00-11:00 am: mid-morning snack
  • 1:00 pm: lunch
  • 3:00-4:00 pm: afternoon snack
  • 6:00-7:00 pm: dinner
  • 9:00 pm: evening snack (optional)
  • 10:00-11:00 pm: bedtime

*If you’re not hungry before bedtime, skip the optional evening snack.

 

The Best Times to Eat for Night Owls

If you’re a night owl and prefer staying up late (and sleeping in late), try the following weight-loss meal schedule:

  • 8:00-9:00 am: wake up and drink 2-4 cups of water
  • 10:00 am: breakfast
  • Noon: noon snack
  • 2:00-3:00 pm: lunch
  • 5:00 pm: evening snack
  • 7:00-8:00 pm: dinner
  • 10:00 pm: evening snack (optional)
  • 11:00 pm-12 midnight: bedtime

*If you’re not hungry before bedtime, skip the optional evening snack.

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How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily for Weight Loss?

As a rule, women generally require 1,200-1,500 calories daily to drop weight at a safe and effective pace.

But if you’re very active or feel hungry when consuming this calorie allotment, try slightly boosting your intake to 1,800 calories (or more) per day.

As long as you consume 500-1,000 fewer calories than you burn off daily, you'll likely drop about 1-2 pounds each week.

This weight loss pace increases your chance of long term success.

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Sample Weight Loss Diet Plans for Women

For effective weight loss, follow a detailed meal plan to control your calorie intake and get the essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

Regardless of when you wake up and when you head to bed each night, aim to eat every 2-3 hours throughout the day to keep energy levels high.

Some sample weight loss menus for women:

Day 1

Breakfast (about 300 calories)

  • 1 cup of whole-grain cereal: 105 calories
  • 1 cup of low-fat milk: 110 calories
  • 1/2 ounce of sliced almonds: 82 calories
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea: 5 calories

Snack 1 (about 200 calories)

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt: 125 calories
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries: calories: 27 calories
  • 1/3 ounce of walnuts: 59 calories

Lunch (about 300 calories)

  • 3 ounces of canned light tuna: 99 calories
  • 1/6th of an avocado: 53 calories
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes: 27 calories
  • 2 cups of leafy greens: 16 calories
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa: 111 calories

Snack 2 (about 200 calories)

  • 1/4 cup of hummus: 146 calories
  • 1 cup of carrot sticks: 50 calories

Dinner (about 300 calories)

  • Turkey chili recipe containing ground turkey, canola oil, pinto beans, black beans, chicken broth, tomatoes, corn, white onion, green onions, minced garlic, tomato paste, and various seasonings: 347 calories per serving

Optional Snack 3 (about 200 calories)

  • 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese: 163 calories
  • 1/2 cup of cantaloupe: 27 calories

 

Day 2

Breakfast (about 300 calories)

  • 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal: 75 calories
  • 2 scrambled eggs: 182 calories
  • 1/2 cup of sautéed spinach: 40 calories
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea: 5 calories

Snack 1 (about 200 calories)

  • 1 cup of low-fat milk or plant milk: 100 calories
  • 1/2 scoop of protein powder: 55 calories
  • 1/2 of a small banana: 45 calories

*Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth and add ice if you'd like.

Lunch (about 300 calories)

  • 3 ounces of baked turkey breast: 125 calories
  • 1 cup of cooked asparagus: 40 calories
  • 1/2 cup of cooked wild rice: 83 calories
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil for cooking: 40 calories

Snack 2 (about 200 calories)

  • Spicy Asian salad cups recipe containing light mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, canned white chicken, water chestnuts, green onions, chopped nuts, lettuce, lime juice, and various seasonings: 215 calories per serving

Dinner (about 300 calories)

  • 3 ounces of shrimp: 84 calories
  • 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice: 109 calories
  • 1 cup of cooked broccoli: 52 calories
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil for cooking: 40 calories

Optional Snack 3 (about 200 calories)

 

Day 3

Breakfast (about 300 calories)

  • 1 1/2 cups of low-fat milk or plant milk: 150 calories
  • 1/2 scoop of protein powder: 55 calories
  • 2 tablespoons of rolled oats: 38 calories
  • 1/2 tablespoon of almond butter: 49 calories

*Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth and add ice if you'd like.

  • 1 cup of coffee or tea: 5 calories

Snack 1 (about 200 calories)

  • Greek 7-layer dip recipe containing chickpeas, lemon juice, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, mint, and various other  seasonings: 69 calories per serving
  • Pita chips or fiber-rich bean chips: 130 calories per serving

Lunch (about 300 calories)

  • Rosemary-peach chicken kabobs recipe containing chicken breasts, peaches, green bell peppers, orange zest, orange juice, honey, canola oil, corn oil, and various seasonings: 202 calories per serving
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa: 111 calories

Snack 2 (about 200 calories)

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt: 125 calories
  • 1/2 cup of watermelon: 23 calories
  • 1/3 ounce of sliced almonds: 54 calories

Dinner (about 300 calories)

  • Spinach stuffed baked salmon recipe containing salmon, olive oil, spinach, red peppers, walnuts, bread crumbs, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, and various seasonings: 208 calories per serving
  • 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice: 109 calories

Optional Snack 3 (about 200 calories)

  • 1/4 cup of hummus: 146 calories
  • 1 1/2 cups of sliced cucumbers: 23 calories

 

When Should I Work Out?

Working out is just as important as eating right for weight and fat loss.

When following the above weight loss meal plan to drop excess weight, schedule workouts between meals and snacks.

Eat something light (containing easily digestible carbohydrates, such as fruit) 30-60 minutes prior to working out.

Eat again within 60 minutes post-exercise.

Choose a combination of healthy carbohydrates and protein after physical activity to maintain or build lean muscle and help your body recover properly.

 

How Can I Accelerate Weight Loss?

Joining an organized weight loss program specifically designed for busy women, such as the Fit Mother Project 30X (FM30X), significantly increases your chance of weight loss success.

Having nutrition education at your fingertips and someone to keep you accountable for healthy lifestyle habits makes dropping weight feel like a breeze.

When you sign up for FM30X, you’ll receive personalized meal plans, menus, fat-burning workouts, weekly newsletters, Q&A access with health experts, and more to keep you motivated and help you stay on track with weight loss long term.

The Fit Mother Project allows you to maintain lost weight for a lifetime.

Try FM30X risk-free by signing up for the Fit Mother Project FREE 3-day weight-loss jumpstart kit to receive a free 1-day meal plan, free metabolism-boosting workout, and free health coaching support from medical experts.

Knowing the best times to eat for weight loss is just one piece of the puzzle, but success is possible at any age when you have the right tools in place!

Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, Registered Dietician, Licenced Dietician

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on the best times to eat for weight loss.

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