Caloric and macronutrient intake differ with circadian phase and between lean and overweight young adults

Andrew W. McHill, Charles A. Czeisler, Andrew J.K. Phillips, Leigh Keating, Laura K. Barger, Marta Garaulet, Frank A.J.L. Scheer, Elizabeth B. Klerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The timing of caloric intake is a risk factor for excess weight and disease. Growing evidence suggests, however, that the impact of caloric consumption on metabolic health depends on its circadian phase, not clock hour. The objective of the current study was to identify how individuals consume calories and macronutrients relative to circadian phase in real-world settings. Young adults (n = 106; aged 19 ± 1 years; 45 females) photographically recorded the timing and content of all calories for seven consecutive days using a smartphone application during a 30-day study. Circadian phase was determined from in-laboratory assessment of dim-light melatonin onset (DLMO). Meals were assigned a circadian phase relative to each participant’s DLMO (0 , ~23:17 h) and binned into 60 bins. Lean (n = 68; 15 females) and non-lean (n = 38, 30 females) body composition was determined via bioelectrical impedance. The DLMO time range was ~10 h, allowing separation of clock time and circadian phase. Eating occurred at all circadian phases, with significant circadian rhythmicity (p < 0.0001) and highest caloric intake at ~300 (~1900 h). The non-lean group ate 8% more of their daily calories at an evening circadian phase (300 ) than the lean group (p = 0.007). Consumption of carbohydrates and proteins followed circadian patterns (p < 0.0001) and non-lean participants ate 13% more carbohydrates at 240 (~1500 h) than the lean group (p = 0.004). There were no significant differences when caloric intake was referenced to local clock time or sleep onset time (p > 0.05). Interventions targeting the circadian timing of calories and macronutrients for weight management should be tested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number587
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Body composition
  • Caloric intake
  • Melatonin
  • Metabolism
  • Sleep duration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Caloric and macronutrient intake differ with circadian phase and between lean and overweight young adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this