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Does It Matter How Late We Eat?

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
woman late night snack

Some may reason that it shouldn't matter how late we eat just as long as the calories we consume are within range of what our bodies need. However, eating late affects the body in a different way than eating a larger meal at mid-day. Calories that are consumed at night are usually not processed as efficiently as those during the day.

Think about it, unless you work the night shift, most people's activities wind down as the day does. Settling in after dinner isn't uncommon. Unfortunately, if we lie down after a huge meal, it can be a strain and lead to a feeling of lethargy in the morning. Not being able to sleep is also common when the body is working hard to digest what was eaten recently.

Meat takes longer than any other food item to digest. I recommend avoiding eating meat late at night, as it tends to stay in the digestive tract longer than grains, fruits, or vegetables.

Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine believe the late evening and early morning hours are the time for cleansing and healing the body from the day before.

If we are using the body's energy to digest food (which should have occurred during the active day-time hours), we are not giving the body that precious cleansing time that it needs to help fight off disease, as well as help heal ourselves naturally.

Research Into Late Night Eating

Studies by Dr. Louis J. Aronne, director of a weight control program for the Weill Cornell Medical Center, have shown that people who eat late, eat more than they would during a day-time meal [1].

Furthermore, these studies found a link between larger evening meals and an increase in triglyceride levels associated with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and overall weight gain [2].

eating late

When triglyceride levels are high, our body thinks it needs to store fat from excessive night-time eating for later use. Eating large meals at night, in essence, informs the body that there will be a shortage of food soon and it should store fat!

Some people find they are able to eat healthy meals during the day, but crave sweets and heavier foods at night. Often times this involves an emotional component to eating, perhaps even a minor one. Are you stressed? Exhausted? What emotional comfort are you seeking from large amounts of late night food? Try taking a warm bath with essential oils to comfort yourself.

Tips to Avoid Eating Late At Night

  • Eat a moderate breakfast and a heavier lunch.
  • Have a larger dinner before 6 PM.
  • When you feel like eating late at night, drink a cup of warm lemon water or an herbal tea with raw honey. Hot liquids are soothing and warming.
  • If eating late is a habit of yours, you will have to break that habit. Start by reducing your portion sizes and choosing healthier meals.
  • Trade in junk food, white sugar, processes foods and white flour for whole grains, soups, fruits and vegetables.
  • Brush your teeth earlier! It may sound too simple, but some people find that if they just brush their teeth, they are less likely to indulge in late-night eating patterns.
  • Turn off the TV. Studies have shown that television can subconsciously trigger desires for more food.
  • Take a warm bath. Turn on some soothing music. Read a book. Create new night-time rituals that don't involve heavy eating.
  • Go on a brisk walk after dinner. Ayurvedic medicine says that we should eat no later than six o' clock, and afterwards take a walk of at least 108 steps!
References (2)
  1. C. Claiborne Ray. Where do those late-night calories go? Chicago Tribune. 2008 March 04.
  2. C. Claiborne Ray. Midnight meals. The New York Times. 2008 February 26.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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