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The perfect time to eat lunch

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Eat lunch earlier, shed more pounds? That’s the finding released today in the International Journal of Obesity, which followed 420 Spanish people in a weight-loss program.

In the study, people lost 25 percent less weight if they ate lunch after 3 p.m. But the study doesn’t mean that you should eat earlier—in fact, you might want to do the opposite. The Spanish are known for making a late lunch the biggest meal of the day, so the study’s authors couldn’t say that the findings would apply here in the U.S. (What foods should you avoid? Start with these 25 New “Healthy” Foods That Aren’t.)

That said, other new research does show that when you eat—not what you eat—can turn on your body’s fat-fighting genes. Until Mr. Edison lit our evenings, we rose with the sun, worked, ate, played, and slept. That’s what your hormonal cycle is designed for. Now, our schedules are more like eat-work-eat-work-eat-sleep. The average American eats 3.5 times per day, according to research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences—and that’s only counting meals of at least 70 calories or more, not the handful of chips you grab between commercial breaks.

In other words, our modern schedule has thrown our bodies’ clocks completely out of whack—and along with it, our metabolism. The result: It’s easy to get caught in a “fat cycle”: a constant flow of hunger hormones that makes you prone to cravings. (For more smart power food suggestions, stock up on these 125 Best Foods for Men.)

For some people, that’s no biggie. They consume a moderate number of calories, exercise regularly, and are happy to soothe their hunger pains with fruit and other healthy snacks. But it’s a major problem for others: Those who’ve tried (and failed) to moderate calorie intake. Those who have tried (and failed) to resist sugary treats. Those who’ve tried (and failed to finish) other traditional diet plans. And, as a result, they just can’t keep off the weight.

For this latter group, intermittent fasting may be the answer. New research from the Salk Institute and other experts suggests that by confining your eating period to 8 hours a day, you can stop the fat cycle and spark your body’s natural flab-burning mechanisms. (Click here to learn more about why this eating schedule works.) That could mean skipping breakfast, but eating what you want for lunch and dinner. Or skipping dinner, and having a grand slam breakfast and lunch.

Learn how you can easily shed pounds of flab simply by changing when you eat in the new book from Men’s Health, The 8-Hour Diet