Let’s be honest–how much do you eat at night for dinner, or even afterwards? Most people eat between 25-65% of their daily calories at night–where do you stand on that spectrum? By now we know that a calorie doesn’t really equal a calorie when it comes to the kind of essential macronutrient you are getting–namely, protein, carbs, and fat. But does the time of day also change the metabolic value of your food?
Unfortunately for some of us, the answer might be–yes. A 2011 study published in Obesity showed that late sleepers–people whose midpoint of sleep was after 5:30 am–typically had higher BMIs than normal sleepers (sleep midpoint before 5:30 am). Late sleepers also typically ate more calories at dinner, got less sleep, and ate fewer fruits and veggies. But even adjusting for the less sleep and less produce intake–both of which have been previously linked to weight gain–eating after 8 pm was associated with higher BMI.
Sounds pretty legitimate to me–but there is one thing I noticed here. Sleep midpoint falling at 5:30 am or later would mean the person went to bed at 2 am (or even later!), using 7 hours of sleep as a standard. That sounds very late, especially on a regular basis–and there is no word on the difference between say, people who go to sleep at virtuous 10 pm or borderline owlish 1 am. And I don’t know how much they could really adjust for the lifestyle differences of late sleepers and normal sleepers: it does sound like chronic late sleepers might be more likely to make other lifestyle choices that would lead to weight gain.
But all in all, I think it’s worth cutting back on late night fridge raiding, and saving the appetite for breakfast the next day, to put your body on the optimum schedule for health and weight loss. If you’re still hungry late at night, try my favorite tricks: detox tea over ice with a splash of cranberry juice, or a cup of frozen blueberries.