Late Night Noshing Can Lead to Weight Gain
In addition to watching what you eat – when you eat may play a role in weight management. A University of Kansas at Lawrence study found that eating between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. was a better predictor of weight gain among college students than total calorie intake.
While co-eds are particularly susceptible to packing on the pounds, the study results, presented at the 52nd American College of Sports Medicine meeting, reinforce other research that has raised red flags regarding midnight munching. The problem is two-fold, having to do with both dietary patterns and metabolism.
John de Castro, PhD of the University of Texas at El Paso, has found that evening food intake tends to be higher in fat and calories. Participants in one study ate 42% of their daily calorie intake during and after dinner. Overweight adults may be particularly vulnerable to the lure of late night noshing: They don't eat significantly more than normal-weight adults at breakfast and lunch, but tend to go overboard at and after dinner, according to a survey de Castro did for the USDA.
Metabolically the picture is a bit murkier, though evidence suggests nighttime may be the right time for storing fat, in which case pigging out when the body's winding down will not help your weight loss efforts. As previously reported in the DNN, meal timing makes a difference when it comes to breakfast – firing up your calorie-burning furnace for the day. To keep metabolism on an even keel, maintain regular meal times, avoid late-night binges, and spread calorie intake throughout the day.
If you want a light p.m. treat – like a bowl of fruit salad topped with chopped nuts – by all means go ahead. When compared to large late night snackers, light night nibblers consumed 10% less fat and nearly 10% fewer calories for the entire day.