There’s a popular quote by nutrition pioneer Adele Davis to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” When you eat more, you end up consuming more calories which in turn causes an increase in your weight. Though the conventional idea of gaining weight mainly blames the amount of calorie intake as the chief cause, some studies have even revealed the time of your food consumption is a major cause of piling on pounds. It is often said that that later that you eat dinner, chances are more of your putting on unwanted weight. Experts and dieticians encourage people who want to lose weight to eat their dinner by 7 pm. Whether it is a diet truth or a diet myth is something that we are going to unravel in this post. So, the main concern of today’s article is “Can you gain weight by eating late at night?” So, let’s get into the details now.
Should You Eat Late at Night?
In order to know whether a late night meal sticks to our gut, we have to know the answer to this question. As per the circadian rhythm, the internal clock of our body tells us what time of the day it is. If it is day time and your body is functioning properly, you will usually feel more energetic to work and eat. Whereas if it is night time, you will feel the need to wind up and sleep, as you feel more tired at the end of the day.
The relation it has with having food late at night past a certain hour goes against our biological clock. Binging on high-sugar, high-fat foods causes you to go to bed with elevated blood sugar levels. Eating outside of our circadian rhythm means our metabolism might be not at its best. In fact, towards the evening, metabolism reaches its lowest level and becomes sluggish. This could be one of the possible causes of weight gain. Some experiments conducted on humans have showed that there exists a correlation between late night eating and weight gain. People who eat late at night tend to gain more weight than people who eat at normal hours.
What affects our Body Functioning at Night?
It is usually advised that you must eat your dinner 3 hours prior to your bedtime. This formula gains more prominence when you are trying to lose weight. If you eat right before bedtime, it affects your digestive health and the digestive juices secreted in the body slowly drops by the end of the day. Hence, by night time, our body’s digestive ability to process food decreases due to less production of these juices. Also, metabolism rate slows down at night as your body is preparing for sleep and rest. The food that you ate late at night is more likely to be stored as fat instead of being burned off. Moreover, cells do a lot of repair work at night which involves usage of calories. This is one of the major reasons why you must never have a heavy dinner. So, if you snack before bedtime, the food resides in your stomach all night long, and unless you’re a sleepwalker, you won’t burn off your meal and everything gets stored as fat.
What is the association between eating at night and weight gain?
Along with the time of having dinner at night, the amount of food that you eat also matters. The association between eating at night and weight gain is the tendency for late eaters to consume more calories than the usual amount. At the end of the day, any additional calorie would lead to weight gain. Researchers have proved that people who ate closer to their bedtime ate more calories than those who ate their last meal earlier. Over time, an average night-time eater gained more pounds due to surplus amount of calories.
Along with having excess amounts of calories, there are other factors that late eaters face due to their eating habits, one of which is making poor food choices. At night, you may be more likely to choose unhealthy, calorie-dense junk food. These are foods with little nutritional value, such as chips, soda and ice cream, pizza and cakes.
There are many possible reasons for this. For one, late-night eaters may not have easy access to healthy food. Now further adding to the misery, there comes the case of emotional eating. Due to stress, anxiety, boredom or sadness, individuals can’t distinguish between true hunger and eating driven by stress factors. In addition to this, physical exhaustion leads to increased food intake and a desire for high-calorie foods. So, if you get hungry after bedtime, you should focus more on having healthy and nutritionally dense food items that can’t cause an increase on your overall weight gain.
How to Regulate Late Night Eating Habits?
Now, that you know that late night eating does no good to you, it’s time to regulate your meal timing and frequency. Eat a high-calorie breakfast as this will keep you feel fuller for long and prevent binge eating at night. It also reduces sweet cravings and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Other than this, you can always follow the smaller meals at frequent intervals (six small meals per day) to manage hunger better and control your appetite throughout the day. Thereby, changing your strategy towards meal timing can manage overall calorie intake by reducing hunger.
Tips to Avoid Binge Eating Late at Night:
- Eat six small meals every day at 2-hour intervals.
- Keep a food journal and jot down what you are consuming through the day, strike out high-calorie and sugary foods.
- Don’t stock up on junk and packaged food when you go grocery shopping next time.
- Plan ahead for dinner – make healthy things for yourself so that you do not end up eating junk food late at night.
- Drink lots of water to give your body the feeling of satiety.
- Relax and let your hair down at night so that you do not binge eat because of stress and emotional issues.
Now summarizing what we said above, the main gist of our talking is eating late does no good to you. So, you definitely have increased chances of gaining weight by eating late. It’s not only the time of day that affects weight gain or loss, but also the amount of food you consume. Even though eating late at night does not have any direct relation with increased weight gain, but being a late eater induces many secondary factors that indirectly become the main cause of weight gain. It’s always a wise idea to have dinner early and to keep it as light as possible. However, if eating early interferes with your busy working schedule, there is always a way to strategize your meal timings and frequency. Since the root cause of weight gain is eating more calories, you should eat more mindfully and stay away from unwanted binging. Staying within a certain amount of calories helps you maintain a healthy weight. Avoid late-night binging and even if you engage in some late night snacks, keep it limited to nutrient-dense foods and low-calorie beverages. Also, remember that no matter how hungry you feel, it is always imperative to work out and shed some extra pounds. Try to make it fun-filled, enjoy your time dancing or running or just moving around in the house! Hope this helps.