Weight Loss Tips: Eating Late At Night May Be Bad For You & Your Diet

By Staff Reporter, Parent Herald August 25, 08:00 am
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Studies have shown that late-night eating habits may be bad for one's diet, and ultimately, health.

The Washington Post reports that scientists are getting closer than ever to understanding why people eat more after dark as well as determining if the added calories at night heighten the risk of weight gain and chronic illnesses, compared to calories taken during the day.

"For years, we said a calorie is a calorie no matter when you consume it," says dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "I don't know if we can say that anymore, based on the emerging research. The timing of a meal may potentially have an impact."

Kelly Allison of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders said that studies show that calories from food, when consumed at night, tends to be stored by the body as fat rather than burn it as energy. These food include anything after dinner, or the food that one usually eats when raiding the fridge upon waking up outside the normal sleep/wake cycle.

Such studies have been conducted with animals, night-shift workers and people who have a disorder called "night eating syndrome," making them consume at least one-fourth of their daily calorie intake at night after dinner, or those who wake up to eat at least twice every week.

A study, published in 2013 via the National Center for Biology (NCBI), evaluated the effects of food timing in weight loss. 420 participants underwent a 20-week weight-loss treatment.

The participants were divided into two groups: 51 percent were early eaters (eating lunch before 3 p.m.) and 49 percent were late eaters (eating lunch past 3 p.m.). The amount of food eaten, time slept and exercised were the same for both groups.

Results showed that early eaters lost 22 pounds, the late eaters only 17, over the 20-week period.

"This is the first study to show that eating later in the day... makes people lose less weight, and lose it slower," said Marta Garaulet, the study's lead author. "It shows that eating late impairs the success of weight-loss therapy."

On the other side, some food taken at night might be a good thing.

Another study from the NCBI involving 44 healthy men who took a protein shake before sleeping gained more strength and muscle mass from within a three-month training routine, compared to those who did not.

Michael Ormsbee, director of the Institute of Sports Sciences & Medicine at Florida State University, said via Washington Post, "When you totally shut down almost every other action other than staying alive, the body is primed to work on recovery, cell turnover, improving immune function and repairing and regenerating sore and damaged muscle tissue."

"There are still many questions to answer," said Garaulet.

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