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Employee Wellness: Is It True You Shouldn't Eat Late at Night?


Man looking in the refrigerator for food at night

Eating late makes you gain weight. This is a common phrase heard in relation to eating late at night, however is it true? A review from Nutrients examined multiple studies to come to a conclusion on the positives and negatives of late night eating. 

 

How would eating late at night not be beneficial for my body?

Studies have found that the time-of-day impacts meal satiety. If you eat at night, you are less likely to feel satiety as you would during the day therefore, leading to an increased intake of calories. Consuming a greater number of calories may lead to overeating and weight gain with the potential for metabolic consequences. Some studies concluded that if you consume most of your calories at night you are more likely to have health issues such as impaired glucose tolerance, decreased kidney function, elevated triglycerides and dyslipidemia.

 

If you are trying to lose weight, eating large meals at night may be detrimental towards your progress. Oftentimes when people are eating late at night, high calorie items are chosen due to tiredness or habit. Choosing items like these is one of the main reasons why eating late can be detrimental to weight loss and cause weight gain. 

 

What If I Have to Eat Most of My Calories at Night Since I Work the Night Shift?

If you have to eat at night because you are a night shift worker, it would be beneficial to try including exercise in your daily routine as it may eliminate the adverse effects from late-night eating. Exercising at least 3 times and 150 minutes per week is the recommendation. 

 

When you are eating during your shift, choose balanced nutritious meals. This would include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Try your best to limit takeout and processed foods. 

 

How would eating late at night be beneficial for me?

Do not be afraid of past research. There are still ways to eat late at night with some positive effects on the body. Choosing foods that are either nutrient dense but low in calories or single macronutrients may be beneficial for cardiometabolic health (i.e.. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease) or muscle protein synthesis.  The recommended number of calories when eating late at night is 200 calories or less. Research in men has shown that consuming a protein rich drink of approximately 150 calories may improve satiety, overnight muscle protein synthesis and morning metabolism. 

 

If you are trying to lose weight, incorporating an evening snack can be beneficial. A structured evening snack after dinner has been shown to decease both total calorie intake and nighttime calorie intake. Less food is typically eaten during dinner when it’s known that there will be an evening snack. It is recommended to choose a low fat and low-calorie snack for weight loss. 

 

What Can I Eat Late at Night?

  • Kale chips: When placed in an air fryer or oven, they can be turned into kale chips. 1 cup of raw kale is about 7 calories.

  • Yogurt and berries: 1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt with ½ cup blueberries is about 187 calories.

  • Vegetables and hummus: ½ cup of carrots and ¼ cup of plain hummus is about 139 calories

  • Apple and peanut butter: 1 medium (3”) apple and 1 tbsp of unsalted peanut butter is about 191 calories

Takeaways:

Yes, you can eat late at night! If you choose to do so, remember to consume 200 calories or less and have the food items be nutrient dense. Incorporating exercise into your routine can be beneficial in reducing some potential adverse effects from eating late at night such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. 

 

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.  

 

Written by: Haley McKay, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


Sources:

1. Nutrients

2. Mayo Clinic

3. Beth Israel Lahey Health: Winchester Hospital

4. American Heart Association

5. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

 


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