- The time of day you eat doesn't affect how your body processes food
- What counts is your total calorie intake and exercise routine
- Keep a gap of at least two hours between your last meal and bed time
Have you heard that one shouldn't eat past a certain time of day or you will gain weight? You may have heard several times that you shouldn't eat after 7 p.m. in order to avoid gaining weight. On that note, does the time you eat really play a role in weight gain? Let's find out. This is a common misconception. Our bodies constantly need fuel, not just when we are awake but also when we are at rest. During late hours, when we're sleeping, our bodies are burning calories to circulate blood, assist with lung functioning, and fuel our brains. Therefore, when it comes to weight gain or loss, it is not the time of day that makes the difference it's what you are consuming.
Weight loss: Is it healthy to eat late at night?
Our metabolism is a complex process. People think that the metabolism slows down drastically at the end of the day and, therefore, our body does not burn off the calories we consume at night. In fact, even though our metabolism is slower at night when at rest than when one is active, the metabolism never stops working, even while sleeping. So, calories consumed at night won't change your metabolism or count more than calories consumed during the day.
Studies have shown that night-time eating does not actually cause weight gain if you stay within your body's daily caloric needs. Many people eat at night out of boredom or because of emotions such as stress or anxiety, and that's how innocent night-time snacking can turn into binge-like overeating behaviours. It is like a bank account. One can only pound on calories per day, and it's totally up to an individual to choose when and how to spend them. That's why personality and behavioural factors are so important. Hence, if you're a night eater that's fine, but remember to eat less earlier in the day.
Technically, the time of day you eat doesn't affect how your body processes food. What actually matters is your total calorie intake and how much you exercise during the day. However, people who eat late at night tend to choose high-calorie foods that their bodies can do without and if you are one of these people, avoiding food after dinner which may help you deter weight gain or even promote weight loss. For instance, if you miss a healthful dinner at 6 pm, there's no reason not to eat it at 9 pm.
Thus, it is best to eat food at least two to three hours before going to sleep or eat light calorie foods that can be digested easily. The 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. Mindless late-night snacking is what gets people into trouble. Controlled portions of healthier options are your best bet.
(Nmami Agarwal is nutritionist at Nmami Life)
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