Eating at night can significantly enhance running endurance in the daytime, a new study has found.

Meal timing is considered an important factor influencing our health. Scientific research has revealed that not only what we eat but also when we eat can significantly impact our overall well-being.

Several studies have demonstrated that adjusting meal timing can be an effective dietary approach to address various health concerns such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, contrary to conventional recommendations of eating during active hours, a new study points toward the numerous positive health implications associated with nighttime eating.

Eating during active hours is generally considered healthy, while eating during nighttime is deemed unhealthy. Contrary to this belief, the latest study, published in Nature Metabolism, showed that restricting food intake during the active cycle – when individuals are most active and alert – offers health benefits such as weight loss and improved blood sugar control in mice.

Understanding the body's internal clock, known as circadian rhythms, is essential when studying the effects of meal timing on health.

During the study, researchers focused on time-restricted feeding, limiting daily food intake to specific time windows, just like intermittent fasting. The team, led by Dr. Min-Dian Li, a professor of internal medicine and cell biology and director of the Center for Circadian Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease at Army Medical University in China, aimed to explore how eating time impacts exercise performance. Specifically, the researchers investigated the effects of daytime-restricted feeding in mice.

They found that restricting the mice's food intake during specific daytime hours had a surprising effect. It actually improved the mice's ability to run for longer periods of time. This goes against the idea that eating during rest time is bad for health. However, more research is needed to understand if the findings apply to humans and how meal timing affects our muscles and exercise performance.

Describing his team's findings as "absolutely surprising and mind-blowing," Dr. Li said that restricted feeding in mice "is normally thought to be bad for metabolic health." He had anticipated that the treadmill test "would be short," according to Medical News Today.

However, even after hours, "the mice did not show any sign of fatigue on the treadmill" and "after repeating in different cohorts with respect to sex, time of day, duration of [daytime restricted feeding], and status of exercise training, the outcome associated with daytime-restricted feeding remain[ed] robust and reproducible," the lead researcher noted.

Researchers concluded that changes in running endurance were attributed to fast-twitch oxidative muscle fibers; their proportions were increased due to the diet pattern. This involved the regulation of genes like Bmal1 and Plin5 and together they enhanced lipid metabolism and helped the muscles use fats more efficiently for energy during exercise.