Eating less at night time is sensible advice for someone trying to eat less. Now science has given some validity to changing your habits if you think eating at night means you’re eating too much.
Eating less food at night time is sensible advice for someone trying to lose weight. The reason often given is that if eat you too much food at night, the body will store all those excess kilojoules as fat because we’re inactive until the next day.
The reason sounds plausible, but if it was one hundred percent true then world hunger could be solved by just feeding people one meal at night time. What really matters is how much is eaten over days and weeks for weight gain or weight loss, not so much when it is eaten.
There is merit though in advice to eat less at night time as it can help a person to cut back on the total quantity of food eaten. Eating lots of food in the evening can also be a marker for unhealthy dietary habits, especially if much of that extra food is going to fuel couch surfing exploits.
So even though advice to eat less at night time seems logical, it hasn’t actually been well tested by science to see how effective it can be for losing weight. Filling this gap, a short-term study involving 29 healthy men looked at how 2 weeks of restricted night time eating fared against 2 weeks of ‘normal’ evening eating.
Advice on restricting night eating was very clear: avoid any food or drink containing kilojoules between the hours of 7 pm and 6 am the next morning. No other changes to the participants’ diet or lifestyle was required so each person was free to eat whatever they wished during the day time hours until early evening. Twenty seven of the twenty nine people complied with following this advice for 2 weeks as well as the 2 week control period.
Eating at night a waistline hazard
So did people eat less when restricting night time eating? Yes, equal to 1000 kilojoules (about 250 Calories) per day less than during their normal eating pattern. This small energy difference was enough to see the men lose 0.4 kg over the 2 week restriction period, and gain 0.6 kg over the 2 week control period.
Not surprisingly, the participants reported higher levels of hunger before breakfast during the 2-week restricted eating period. The two cautions with interpreting this study is that it was small in scale and only looked at healthy, mostly normal weight male university students.
What it all means
There is now some scientific evidence to make you think about what you’re eating at night time. By following a very simple rule of ‘no snacking after 7 pm’ can give a small, but effective benefit in cutting back on calories.