Aaron Chy, BSc, BSc Pharm/PharmD. Candidate
We’ve all been there, sitting down late at night, either studying, working or just watching another episode of This Is Us. You start to feel a little hungry, or maybe bored, and before you know it you’re raiding the fridge to put a meal together from random leftovers. Ah yes, you might even be eating while you read this. But does late night snacking really contribute more to weight gain, or does it make no difference at all?
We all love food
Most people you’d ask would probably say yes, they enjoy eating. Our desire to eat is closely related to two chemicals in our body called hormones; Ghrelin – also known as the hunger hormone – stimulates appetite and eating. On the other hand, Leptin works in the opposite way by decreasing appetite and is generally known as the satisfaction hormone.
You may have heard before that our bodies work on a natural 24-hour clock, this is true and applies to hormone production. Based on our environment and lifestyle (including our diet and eating schedule), hormone production throughout the day can differ from person to person.
Not so epic meal time
A scientific study found that when meals are scheduled later in the day, it led to more weight gain compared to eating earlier. People who ate later also scored worse on lab tests that measured sugar and fat metabolism. On the other hand, people that scheduled meals earlier in the day showed less weight gain. In these people, it was found that that Ghrelin (hunger) peaked earlier in the day and Leptin (satisfaction) peaked later in the evening.1
To add to that, a second study found that being exposed to stress increased hunger and appetite in the evening.2
So how does this affect my weight? What should I do?
In short, eating earlier in the day can reduce weight gain and may also prevent late night urges to snack. Conversely, stress and eating later in the evening go hand-in-hand in causing weight gain.
Are you a breakfast person? Great, keep it up. More of a nighttime eater? Worry not, there is some good news. The same study showing the effect of meal times also found it’s possible to retrain your body to a different eating schedule. With time and consistency, a person can shift themselves from the “hungry” night-time condition to the “satisfied” day-time condition.
What’s the best way to achieve this? The answer is planning ahead; by preparing a few meals in advance and taking into account your schedule for the week, you can set yourself up for success and save trouble down the road. Being prepared ahead of time can easily take some stress off too, especially during those busier weeks, and by reducing stress you’ll also reduce nighttime cravings; it’s a win-win.
Hungry? Stick around for some upcoming pieces from the Orbis team on healthy meal choices. As always, feel free to comment, like or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. (2017, June 2). Timing meals later at night can cause weight gain and impair fat metabolism: Findings provide first experimental evidence of prolonged delayed eating versus daytime eating, showing that delayed eating can also raise insulin, fasting glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170602143816.htm
- Carnell, S., Grillot, C., Ungredda, T., Ellis, S., Mehta, N., Holst, J., & Geliebter, A. (2017). Morning and afternoon appetite and gut hormone responses to meal and stress challenges in obese individuals with and without binge eating disorder. International Journal Of Obesity (2005), doi:10.1038/ijo.2017.307