- Late night eating could potentially lead to weight gain due to the slowing down of metabolism, which spikes blood sugar and several other chemicals.
- The timing of when you eat could be as important as the meal itself. Consuming the same amount of calories at different times in a 24-hour cycle could cause your body to process them differently.
- Research suggest that those who eat late have elevated blood sugar levels and burn less fat. Eating late can therefore impact glucose and fat metabolism, particularly in people with obesity or diabetes.
- Snacking close to sleep time can exacerbate weight gain, potentially triggered by factors including stress, boredom, loneliness, and anger.
- To control night-time munching habits, it is advised to have a balanced dinner with a plant-based focus, and make the kitchen off-limits after dinner. Alternative activities to snacking after dinner should be planned.
Do you have a habit of having dinner late at night just before you go to bed? If you do, you might need to rethink your schedule. According to recent research, it is suggested that this habit could potentially lead to weight gain during your slumber.
Why does this happen, you may ask? It’s primarily due to the slowing down of your metabolism which spikes blood sugar and several other chemicals, thus leading to weight gain and even potentially causing type 2 diabetes.
Timing is as Important as the Meal Itself
“What you eat is critical, but when you eat it may also influence health conditions like obesity,” said the research author, Dr. Jonathan Jun, who also holds an associate professor position at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. “In a 24-hour cycle, you could consume the same amount of calories, but your body will process them differently based on the timing of consumption.”
Dissecting the Research
For the research, 20 healthy volunteers were assembled and asked to consume the same meal at either 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. Regardless of their meal time, all participants went to bed at 11 p.m. and woke up at 7 a.m.
Prior to the experiment, the participants were equipped with activity trackers. During the research period, hourly blood samples were drawn and sleep studies were conducted. The volunteers also underwent body fat examination and ate foods embedded with compounds that would assist researchers in monitoring fat burning.
The results exhibited that those who dined late had elevated blood sugar levels and burned less fat. On an average, the peak blood glucose level post a late dinner was approximately 18% higher and fat burning was nearly 10% lower as compared to those who ate earlier.
How Does This Impact People with Obesity or Diabetes?
Dr. Jun explained that the effects might be more pronounced for people struggling with obesity or diabetes. However, it’s yet to be clarified if it’s the gap between meal time and bedtime that’s causing the discrepancy.
“If you take dinner at 10 p.m. but go to bed at 3 a.m., is it equivalent to having a late meal at 6 p.m. and sleeping at 11 p.m.?” he pondered. Jun also added that eating and sleeping effects could vary for each person based on their unique metabolism or body clock.
“We need to focus less on what is considered as ‘late’ for eating and more on individual factors,” he advised.
Don’t Let Snacking Ruin Your Health
Samantha Heller, a high-ranking clinical nutritionist based in New York, responded to the findings.
“Eating close to sleep time logically alters glucose and fat metabolism as the body is not physically active during sleep,” she said. Heller indicated that some people have a tricky pattern of eating before dinner, having the meal and then continuing to snack until it is time for bed; which equates to eating over several hours.
“This is a fast lane to gaining weight,” Heller warned. Late-night eating can be triggered by numerous factors including stress, boredom, loneliness, and anger.
Control Your Night-Time Munching Habits
In light of this, Heller suggests planning an afternoon snack like a hearty serving of hummus and carrots to ensure you aren’t ravenous by dinner. Follow up with a balanced dinner that leans heavily towards plant-based options. After dinner, it’s critical to make the kitchen off-limits.
If snacking urges hit, plan alternative activities. It’s not likely that you are hungry after having just had dinner. Therefore, it’s important to identify what draws you back into the kitchen and devise a strategy to handle it. Have a glass of water or herbal tea, pursue a hobby, take a walk, read, listen to music or an audiobook.
“Shutting the kitchen after dinner is an effortless way to lose some weight and improve your sleep,” concluded Heller.
For further insights into preventing obesity, you can visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.