Does Eating at Night Really Cause Weight Gain?

It's good to have a 12-hour break between dinner and breakfast

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Oh dear! It’s after 6 p.m. and you didn’t have dinner yet. Now you have to wait until breakfast to eat or what you’re going to see your meal all over your waistline. Is it really that bad?

A study on mice says there is some truth to that. Mice who ate around the clock and consumed the same amount of calories as mice that ate before the sun goes down put on more fat. It appears that you should not eat for eat least 12 hours after your last meal of the day and before breakfast the next morning. This fasting activates important fat burning passages in the body.

The mice that overindulged every once in a while still gained fewer pounds than those that ate consistently for a day and didn’t have a break for 12 hours. After that, these mice were put on an eating schedule and lost 5 percent of their body weight even though they were consuming the same number of calories as before.

Not eating for at least half a day between dinner and breakfast means that calories are really not created equal. Those at night increase the risk of weight gain and diabetes.

The food that you eat after dinner – especially if you don’t normally go for a snack before bedtime – is being stored by the body as fat and it won’t burn it as energy. The reason is that food is processed different at different time a day. That’s why many nutritionists say that the best time to eat carbs and protein is in the morning.

The body has a great memory and when something is done outside its usual schedule, it thinks a crisis is coming and stores the fat, which is basically its fuel, for future use. That can lead to extra pounds and high blood sugar levels.

An additional problem is that people tend to snack on foods rich in the bad kind of fat late at night – sweets or junk food. A study says that eating your main meal of the day after 3 p.m. is worse for weight loss purposes. Basically the later you eat the fewer pounds you’re going to drop.

Another research showed that healthy women who ate lunch after 4:30 in the afternoon burned fewer calories than those who ate at 1 p.m. The women who ate late didn’t metabolize carbs as well and decreased their glucose tolerance, which is a huge risk for developing diabetes.

Adults in the U.S. eat 17 percent of their daily calories at breakfast, 24 percent at lunch and 34 percent at dinner, according to the USDA’s “What we eat in America” survey.

Other studies showed that people who had a small 150-calories protein shake half an hour before going to bed helped muscles grow, suppressed the appetite in the morning and boosted metabolism. But that works more for generally active people. Another research found that overweight women and those who generally don’t exercise felt less hungry in the morning after having the shake but their insulin and sugar blood levels were a lot higher.

So if you need to find a way to curb your eating at night, try not restricting so much what you consume before the sun goes down. The result will be that you won’t feel so hungry at night and you won’t be forced to control yourself then. Another tip is to keep junk food out. Don’t have it around in case you get a craving. If you must have a post-dinner snack, make it no more than 200 calories.

More readings: 

12 Ways to Eat Dessert and Not Gain Weight

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Exercising?

19 Winter Superfoods that Won't Break the Bank