Does late night eating really cause weight gain?

Sep 21, 2020
Our health expert looks into whether eating a night is bad for you after all. Source: Getty.

It’s 10pm and you’re feeling a little bit peckish. You had an early dinner and all you can think of now is food, but you have that voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you that eating late is bad for you and causes weight gain. But is that actually true?

Unfortunately, this question can’t be answered in a black and white manner. Due to the circadian rhythm, our metabolism slows down at night, therefore anything you eat at night may be turned into fat more easily than calories consumed during the day. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that is part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes.

One of the most important and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle. When properly aligned, the circadian rhythm can promote consistent and restorative sleep. But when it’s thrown off, it can create significant problems in the body and mind. Research shows that the sleep-wake cycle plays an integral role in many aspects of our physical and mental health.

The night hours are the time for the body to rest and repair, if we eat late at night the body has less time to repair and reset as it will be busy digesting the food we consumed. It needs to be said that scientists are still debating this, however, studies have found that people who eat late at night are more likely to gain weight.

One study tracked the eating habits of 52 adults and found that those who ate past 8pm consumed more total calories than earlier eaters. The extra calories consumed by late eaters could lead to weight gain over time. So what should you do if you can’t stop yourself reaching for the fridge door handle?

A yoghurt or vegan yogurt (almond or coconut, no sugar, if possible), some dried fruits or some pumpkin seeds (they are rich in tryptophan and help the brain produce melatonin when eaten together with some carbs). Edamame is another option as this snack is also high in tryptophan and protein. Almonds may also help boost your sleep quality. Along with several other types of nuts, almonds are another great source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin as well as magnesium, which helps promote sleep due to its ability to reduce inflammation. Additionally, magnesium may reduce high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt a good night’s sleep.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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What are your thoughts on this? Do you snack at night?

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