What Happens When You Eat Late?

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Is It Really Safe to Eat Late at Night?

Eating at night after 8 pm is said to be poison to the body. Eating at night has long been associated with weight gain. Here, we should understand that conventional wisdom today is that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of when you eat it, and that what causes weight gain is simply eating more calories than you burn. Nutrition experts call this the calorie in/calorie out theory of weight control.

Also, it does not matter what time of day you eat. What and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.”

According to Research

A study in the journal OBESITY added to the confusion by suggesting that there may be more to nighttime eating than just overeating calories. Northwestern University researchers found that eating at night led to twice as much weight gain — even when total calories consumed were the same.

However this research was done on mice, not humans, and the reason for the weight gain is unknown. And a single mouse study should not cause us to toss out the wealth of evidence supporting the calorie in/calorie out theory.

Now we need to note that People eat at night for different reasons that often have little to do with hunger, from satisfying cravings to coping with boredom or stress. And after-dinner snacks tend not to be controlled.

They often consist of large portions of high-calorie foods (like chips, cookies, candy), eaten while sitting in front of the television or computer. In this situation, it’s all too easy to consume the entire bag, carton, or container before you realize it.

What Happens When You Eat Late?

Weight Gain Potential

This could be a possibility but calories are calories no matter when you eat it. When you eat calories so close to bedtime, your body doesn’t have as much time to burn them off through normal daily activities and an active metabolism before you go to sleep.

Those excess calories are more likely to get stored as fat. Over time, frequent late-night snacking can lead to gradual and unhealthy weight gain.

Sleep Disruption

Eating a large, heavy meal right before bed can also interfere with your sleep quality. When your body is working hard to digest all that food, it makes it harder to drift off easily and stay asleep through the night.

The digestive process requires extra resources and can lead to effects like insomnia, fragmented sleep patterns, nighttime awakenings, and overall lower sleep quality. Poor sleep, in turn, can contribute to weight issues among other health problems.

Increased Acid Reflux

Laying down with a full stomach makes it much easier for stomach acid to sneak back up into the oesophagus, causing uncomfortable acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn. Late-night eating, especially spicy, fatty, or acidic foods, is a well-known trigger for acid reflux flare-ups. Over time, chronic acid reflux can potentially lead to more serious conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Blood Sugar Dysregulation

Depending on what you eat late at night, you may experience blood sugar spikes and crashes that can disrupt metabolic functions. High-carb, high-sugar foods trigger sharp increases in blood sugar and insulin levels.

When those highs inevitably come crashing back down a few hours later, your body is left struggling to regulate itself properly in the overnight hours. This rollercoaster can promote insulin resistance over time.

Hormonal Effects

Some research has indicated that late-night eating may negatively impact various hormones in the body related to appetite, metabolism, sleep, and more.

For example, regularly snacking in the evening hours close to bedtime is linked to increased levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone. This nighttime hormonal shift could make you feel hungrier and crave more unhealthy foods.

Potential Upsides?

While most of the effects above are painted in a fairly negative light, some argue that there could also be upsides to late-night eating depending on the individual, their goals, and what they’re eating.

For example, if you’re an athlete or a highly active person aiming for a caloric surplus to build muscle, a protein-rich late-night snack could help meet those needs. Or for someone trying to regulate blood sugar levels, a balanced bedtime snack with protein, fiber, and healthy fats could help stabilize levels overnight.

Overall, making late-night snacking or big meals a frequent habit is generally not recommended from a health standpoint. However, the occasional mindful late night bite isn’t necessarily the end of the world if you’re smart about your choices.

Just be sure to listen to your body’s signals – don’t eat yourself into a caloric surplus out of boredom, limit heavy, fatty foods that could trigger reflux, and opt for some protein along with those carbs and fats to keep blood sugar stable.

And of course, always stay hydrated! Making informed, balanced decisions about late-night eating can help you avoid the potential pitfalls while still allowing for the occasional indulgence.

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