Do you get fatter if you eat in the evening? On this page, you will find information about eating late at night. Unwise if you want to lose weight or not?
Is it true that you gain weight more quickly if you eat late at night and in the evening? What does the physiology of the body and the latest scientific insights say?
Based on the first law of thermodynamics and the associated energy balance, it does not matter when you eat. A calorie is a calorie. If you can believe the Nutrition Center’s website, it concerns the energy intake over one or more days. In other words, if you eat as much as you need, that late snack will not lead to extra fat.
In addition, after 8:00 PM or during your sleep, your body continues to use energy to keep all bodily functions intact. The point you eat is not immediately digested and stored. It can take 24 to 72 hours for a product to be completely digested.
People often eat more in the evening.
It is important to mention that people tend to eat extra in the evening. If you have already met your calorie needs and hit the cookie jar in the evening, you will eventually gain weight. This does not mean that you can never eat in the evening again. But be careful that this does not become a habit. Try to make up for this the next day, for example, by eating less.
The problem with eating in the evening is that these are often fatty and unhealthy meals that contain many calories; think of that döner sandwich after going out – easily around 1000 calories!
Why do you feel like eating more in the evening?
You probably recognize the feeling that you are much more hungry in the evening than in the morning. Strange, because you haven’t eaten anything all night and expect to be most hungry in the morning. According to Oregon Health & Science University and Harvard researchers, it is mainly due to the internal biological clock (circadian rhythm). While sleeping, your body does not send out hunger signals because it is necessary to get enough rest. This may also be why you are not very hungry early in the morning and only really start to feel hungry during the morning or afternoon.
Food and relationship with emotion or habits
Furthermore, a lot of eating behavior in the evening is habitual behavior. People often eat more calories while watching a series than without distraction. We also know from practice that many people eat in the evening out of boredom, loneliness or compensation. So pay close attention to this.
Ask yourself yes: are you eating because you are hungry or hungry?
What does scientific research say?
Several scientific studies show that eating in the evening and during the night is also associated with higher weight. An important explanation is that you build up more appetite and are therefore inclined to eat more. Logically, our satiety mechanism does not work equally well for everyone and sometimes only comes into action after we are already full enough. In addition, it is also logical that those who stay up longer eat more. After all, you can’t eat when you’re sleeping.
But what about when all these factors are controlled for? Research indicates that eating a large meal in the morning can make you feel full, which may cause you to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Furthermore, another study indicates that when women ate in the morning, they lost weight more easily. They could better maintain their lean body mass (muscle mass). Finally, a study among young girls (8-12 years) shows that eating in the evening can certainly influence the increase in BMI.
In short, there is a lot of conflicting research. Therefore, in 2021, researchers bundled the previously known studies for 5-12 weeks. These combined results show that, on average, test subjects lose 1.2 kilograms more if they eat relatively more in the morning compared to the evening. It was also noticeable that the group that ate more calories relatively early also had more favorable blood sugar levels, less insulin resistance and less LDL cholesterol.
Fortunately, research does not stand still. Since then, new studies showing mixed results with a more long-term design have emerged. One of the studies even lasts one year. No difference in weight loss was measured between relatively large amounts of food in the morning versus evening.
In short, there is still a lot of uncertainty, and the effects may differ between individuals and target groups. The results that do exist are often mechanical, looking at hormonal differences rather than long-term outcomes.
Is eating in the evening healthy or unhealthy?
More and more studies show that the timing of your meals influences your biological clock. This is evident, for example, in people who work shifts and consume their calories during the night. They are often more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and be overweight.
An explanation for this is that your eating moments may or may not match your body’s biological rhythm. If this is not the case, your blood sugar level disturbances may occur. It sounds logical that too much fluctuation in your diet is not good for you. Skipping breakfast can already influence the disruption of these little clocks. This is what the research team of Professor Daniela Jukobowics discovered. These researchers found that eating breakfast affects clock genes, resulting in better glucose levels and blood pressure control. This effect occurred in both overweight and non-overweight people. It is unclear what the impact of this is in the long term. You cannot conclude that not eating breakfast is necessarily much unhealthier, but it gives food for thought and is reason for further research.
Movement and daylight
In addition to eating at appropriate times, exercising enough and going outside during the day is also important. These behaviors also have a positive influence on your biological clock.
More and more information about meal timing and its influences on health is available. However, the studies are still of short duration and with relatively small research groups. This means no cause-and-effect relationship can yet be demonstrated between the timing of nutritional intake and health indicators. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t associations or new interesting theories that could potentially lead to better health. Future research should determine to what extent these findings hold up. Use the information from this article and test what works for you!
There is no clarity (consensus) within the current scientific literature. Therefore, there is insufficient reason to assume that a diet in which you eat late at night necessarily leads to weight gain. The main reason why people gain weight is because people consume more calories than they need (mainly because they stay up later and snack). Future research should reveal exactly how it works!