Overall energy intake and expenditure is key, but actually the time you eat in the evening can make a significant difference to your progress, for the following reasons:
- When you eat late at night you’re more likely to snack between lunch and dinner or between. So when it comes to meal time you’ve eaten extra food but may not reduce your meal accordingly. So you take in more energy than planned.
- Eating late can often mean that you’re very hungry when it comes to meal time. So much so that you serve yourself too much, go back for seconds, or nibble whilst cooking.
- Eating late can be a symptom of a stressful lifestyle – commuting, fitting in exercise, dealing with the kids etc are all stressors. So when you come to eat – late – you’re more likely to give in to stress’s influence and overeat.
- Eating late at night usually means sitting immediately afterwards and then going to sleep relatively soon after that. Not the best way to aid good digestion. Digesting and metabolising your food well is important for good health.
- Eating late might mean you have a more restless sleep. Waking in the night is a stressor to the body; stress causes the release of certain hormones that influence fat storage, especially abdominal fat.
- Eating carbs late at night then not using them for their purpose – to provide energy – means that the main place they have to go is into fat storage, especially as they can cause a blood sugar rise, which drives the body to ferret them away into the fat cells. When you eat carbs you need to be thinking about using them for energy production, rather than sleeping.
Getting around the perils of eating late at night
Having said all that, if you eat too early, you might then sit and nibble throughout the evening! Find a time that reduces the chances of eating extra. Maybe 6:30-7pm.
If you really can’t eat earlier in the evening then consider having at least some of your main meals at lunchtime and move the smaller meal to the evening.