How to Avoid Weight Gain When Eating Late

How many of us struggle with late night eating? A recent study suggests that being aware of the time you’re eating may be just as important as paying attention to what you’re eating when it comes identifying the cause of weight gain.


You worked too late and have nothing in the fridge, and your howling stomach is begging for something, anything—even that drive-thru temptation you know is off limits. We’ve all done it. And while yet another study has concluded that avoiding late-night meals may be the secret to diets, nutritionists say there is a way to feed your hunger at night without weight gain. (Also check out these 10 Snacking Mistakes That Cause Weight Gain.)

A new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that mice that had access to the same high-fat diet for only eight hours, namely during daylight hours, were healthier and slimmer than those who had access to the food for the whole day—despite consuming the same number of calories. But is what’s good for the mouse good for the human? The answer comes down to self-control.

“Food restriction in humans is much less controlled, and relies more on keeping a healthy environment and willpower—something many people struggle with,” says Heather Mangieri, R.D., a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition and spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The evening hours are when most people will admit to out-of-control eating, since that’s the time when the work is done and it’s time to relax.”

The skinny on the matter, though? Sometimes late-night eating is the only choice. With longer work hours and post-work obligations, some days you don’t even think about dinner until 8 p.m. The good news, according to Mangieri, is it’s less about what time you’re dining, and more about what foods are on your plate.

Cut the Carbs
“If dinner is at 8 p.m. and bedtime is two hours later, the meal size should be smaller and include a smaller amount of carbohydrates,” she says. “Stick to a serving of lean protein and load up on veggies so you’ll still meet your nutrient needs without all the late-night calories.”


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