When it comes to weight gain or loss, it is not the time of day that makes the difference — it’s what you are consuming. And most people tend to veg out on high-calorie foods while unwinding in front of the TV after a long, stressful day.
“Typically, people who are eating at night have probably consumed an evening meal, so then their night eating would entail snack items like ice cream, cookies, popcorn or chips,” says Betsy Day, UAMS Weight Loss Clinic Manager. “And most of the time this eating is associated with other activity like watching TV and playing on the computer, which leads to mindless eating and, typically, over consumption.”
Our metabolism is a complex process. You might think that your metabolism slows down drastically at the end of the day and, therefore, your body does not burn off the calories you consume at night. But in fact, even though your metabolism is slower at night when you are stationary than when you are active, your metabolism never stops working, even when you are sleeping. Calories consumed at night won’t change your metabolism or count more than calories consumed during the day.
Weight gain and weight loss comes down to a simple math equation, explains Day. “Too many calories taken in versus not enough expended on any given day, regardless of the time, will lead to weight gain.”
The UAMS Weight Loss Clinic recommends that you eat dinner at least three to four hours before going to bed to give your body time to digest the meal. And dinner should be your smallest meal of the day.
“Most people typically have the biggest meal in the evening and the smallest meal for breakfast — we recommend the opposite,” says Day. Usually people who eat a larger breakfast and lunch full of protein, fruit, vegetables and whole grains will not be as tempted to indulge in a high-fat, high-calorie dinner.
Instead of eating three larger meals, eating four or five smaller meals during the day can help you maintain a healthy weight. Other healthy tips and considerations include:
- Don’t go hungry – Waiting too long to eat could lead to consuming larger portion sizes. Make sure to have healthy snacks prepared for the day.
- Dodge the quick fixes – After a long day of work or school, a fast food burger is tempting. Have a quick, healthy meal ready to go such as steamed vegetables and broiled fish.
- Stay focused on health – Consistent periods of going without food followed by a large meal can make you susceptible to Type 2 diabetes. Focus on staying healthy, rather than being skinny.
Try some of our healthy recipes