It’s no secret that the fitness and dieting industry has become a bit of a fad in recent years. And with it comes a whole host of tips, tricks, and guidelines for you to sift through in order to find what’s right for you and your body. Most people know that to effectively lose weight, you need to combine a healthy diet and regular exercise. However, the process of weight loss generally takes some time to accomplish, which is something not everyone wants to commit to. This results in fad diets, cleanses, exercise tapes, and other trends. One particular dieting tip that’s been somewhat controversial is not to eat too late at night. Some people tend to think this is a myth, and that what and how much you eat is more important than when you eat. While that’s all well and good, there’s actually quite a bit of evidence to back this theory up.
The main consequence of eating too late is weight gain, which can be caused by several different factors. First of all, we metabolize (aka process) food faster during the day when we are more active. So naturally, this means we process food slower while we sleep. That being said, the result of late-night snacking is that the food sits in your stomach and is eventually stored as fat, since it can’t be digested or burned off as energy. Additionally, many people tend to either skip or eat a very small breakfast due to their busy schedules. This causes them to overeat later in the evening, sometimes consuming almost a third of their daily caloric intake at that time.
Eating too late at night can also cause sleep problems, as the process of digestion interferes with the sleep cycle. This can cause you to either wake up multiple times in the night or have trouble initially falling asleep. Furthermore, disruptions in your circadian rhythm can also affect things like your health, hormones and immune system.
Some late-night eaters experience health issues like acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion, as well as problems with learning and memory. In a study done by the University of California at Los Angeles, Christopher Colwell and his fellow researchers studied the effects, on mice, of eating during normal sleep times. In the study, one group of mice ate during their normal mealtime, while the other group was only allowed to eat during the time that they normally slept. Both groups ate the same amount of food and got the same amount of sleep. Later, the mice were given a learning test where the goal was to associate two different things. The result was that mice who ate when they would normally be sleeping couldn’t remember what they previously learned and had trouble recognizing a new object.
At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering how you can change this behavior. But believe me, it’s not as simple as just eating less. First of all, make sure your meal sizes go from big to small. In other words, you should eat a large breakfast, a medium-sized lunch, and a small dinner. Also, don’t skip meals! Lots of people claim they are too busy to grab lunch during the day, and this definitely contributes to weight gain. If you don’t eat enough during the day, you’re almost guaranteed to overeat at night.