One of the “rules” or advice we regularly receive during our weight-loss effort is not to eat late at night. Does eating late at night really cause us to gain weight? Or perhaps it is just an old wives’ tales?
Is there any truth behind late night meals or snacking leading to a burgeoning abdominal pouch?
One common misconception is that eating late at night results in weight gain. In this article, we bring to light the relationship between weight gain vs late-night meal and how you can combat the monster under the plate. Read on to understand the reasons late-night meals contribute to weight gain.
The Effects Of Eating Late
With Singapore’s long working hours and an abundance of 24-hour food joints available, it is inevitable that we may be tempted to have late night meals and snacks.
Eating late at night has serious consequences to the functionality of our organs, energy levels, and metabolism, as our body has to react and change in an abrupt manner, particularly detrimental to those who have frequent irregular working hours. With regards to late night meals which usually features junk food, it disrupts our normal circadian rhythm, a 24-hour internal body clock that we run on subconsciously.
Besides disrupting the body clock, our bodies may also experience negative effects like an imbalance of hormones, impaired blood sugar regulation and weakening of memory. Insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar, which, in turn, produces effects in energy storage and energy use, can lead to increased appetites, decreased metabolic rates and become one of the reasons you suffer from weight gain.
Understanding Our Body Clock and Circadian Rhythm
Not visible to the naked eye, circadian rhythm is embedded into our lifestyle. When bedtime approaches, our energy levels begin to dip causing us to feel sleepy and vice versa when we have reached optimal amounts of rest. Our body also responds automatically to light and darkness, with night mainly for sleeping, not eating.
Following our body’s daily pattern, circadian rhythms also affect when our body feels hungry, leading to unhealthy eating and snacking habits.
Why Do We Gain Weight When We Eat Late?
1. Tendency To Eat More
Due to lack of sleep, the body may respond to it as with how it responds to stress. An increase in cortisol and adrenaline to keep the body going can cause you to source for food, especially food high in fat and sugar instinctively. If you are still hungry after dinner, consider foods that are low in calories, higher in fibre and nutritional benefits (e.g. frozen grapes, apple etc.).
2. Affect Poor Food Choices
Individuals who eat later usually make poor food choices not just due to their habits, but also because of food options that are available at later hours are usually not the healthier kinds. It could also be foods that are convenient but without many nutritional benefits like ice cream, chips, cookies, instant noodles etc. With a lack of access to healthier foods, snacking during their night shifts, emotional eating due to stress etc., It is no wonder why the negative effects of eating late compound over time.
3. Timing And Frequency Of Meals Consumed
You may also consider regulating your meal times and frequency to control your appetite. Prevent yourself from overeating at dinner or and reduce late-night hunger pangs by starting the day with a power breakfast higher in calories and fibre and lower in glycemic index, ensuring that you stay full for a longer period. Your feelings of satiety throughout the day can stretch to the night. Also, you may consider delaying your breakfast if dinner or supper is eaten later than usual.
4. Lack Of Sleep
A lack of sleep causes hormonal changes which can trigger hunger pangs and cravings. These episodes of hunger are not easily ignored and may keep you up at night. Over prolonged periods, you may develop a habit on a downward spiral and experience worse hungry and sleepless nights.
The Bottom Line
In summary, your late night racoon-like food scavenging may be one reason you are experiencing weight gain. While calorie values are the same in the day and night, your weight-loss efforts leave no room for extra calories that you do not need from late night chocolates, cookies and ice cream. What’s more, your poorer psychological state attributed to lack of sleep and hormonal imbalance may also be exacerbating your weight gain.
Other ways which you can consider to overcome feelings of hunger and better manage your appetite is by consuming smaller meals with increased frequency throughout the day to keep you feeling satiated longer and stave off late-night appetites.
A consistent meal schedule is, after all, the first step in the battle against weight gain.