Everything from your sleep schedule to your workouts can affect how many calories you burn during the day, but according to a new small study, time could be a factor too. The research finds that there may be a time of day when your body naturally burns the most calories.
Researchers wanted to find out if our circadian rhythm, the body’s “internal clock” that controls when we feel alert, sleepy, or hungry, affects how many calories we burn during the day and night. And it seems when our body is at rest, we burn about 10% more calories in the late afternoon than late at night, the lab experiments showed.
Sure, 10% doesn’t sound like much, but it equals about 130 extra calories burned in the late afternoon and evening without you having to do any extra work. Not bad, huh? Even a small increase could have an impact on health. “If it’s happening every day,” study co-author Dr. Jeanne Duffy explains, “you can imagine that over time it could add up.”
But before you reschedule all your fitness classes, keep in mind this was a really small study where seven participants lived in a lab for 37 days, so the conditions were unique. Scientists say more research is needed to understand exactly how these findings affect us, but it does give more insight into how circadian rhythms impact overall health.