The purpose of this study was to determine whether meal ingestion pattern [large morning meals (AM) vs. large evening meals (PM)] affects changes in body weight, body composition or energy utilization during weight loss. Ten women completed a metabolic ward study of 3-wk weight stabilization followed by 12 wk of weight loss with a moderately energy restricted diet [mean energy intake +/- SD = 107 +/- 6 kJ/(kg.d)] and regular exercise. The weight loss phase was divided into two 6-wk periods. During period 1, 70% of daily energy intake was taken as two meals in the AM (n = 4) or in the PM (n = 6). Subjects crossed over to the alternate meal time in period 2. Both weight loss and fat-free mass loss were greater with the AM than the PM meal pattern: 3.90 +/- 0.19 vs. 3.27 +/- 0.26 kg/6 wk, P < 0.05, and 1.28 +/- 0.14 vs. 0.25 +/- 0.16 kg/6 wk, P < 0.001, respectively. Change in fat mass and loss of body energy were affected by order of meal pattern ingestion. The PM pattern resulted in greater loss of fat mass in period 1 (P < 0.01) but not in period 2. Likewise, resting mid-afternoon fat oxidation rate was higher with the PM pattern in period 1 (P < 0.05) but not in period 2, corresponding with the fat mass changes. To conclude, ingestion of larger AM meals resulted in slightly greater weight loss, but ingestion of larger PM meals resulted in better maintenance of fat-free mass. Thus, incorporation of larger PM meals in a weight loss regimen may be important in minimizing the loss of fat-free mass.