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Eating late at night- does it matter or not?

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Old 10-21-2012, 10:35 PM   #1
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Default Eating late at night- does it matter or not?

For many, many years, I've had the idea that, for weightloss purposes, it's not good to eat close to the time you sleep. Probably I read it in a book somewhere when I was like 13 or something, but somehow it became something of a "rule" for me. But now that I'm living with my husband, who prefers eating very late, for his sake I've been trying to at least compromise and eat later....but it still makes me a little uncomfortable, feeling like somehow it's detrimental to my losing weight efforts. I'm not talking about extra snacks at night or anything. Simply the same dinner, same amount of food, but consumed later by a few hours.

So-- what do you guys think, or know? Does it matter, enough that I should mind, or not? Research, personal experience, opinions? I'd love to hear it, as this is an issue I'm dealing with basically everyday (obviously). Thanks!
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Old 10-21-2012, 10:50 PM   #2
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I greatly dislike going to bed with food in my stomach. But I really don't think it matters in terms of weight loss in the big picture. Sure, it could make one's weight higher the next morning depending on what the meal consisted of. But if one is in a deficit I really don't think WHEN you eat is going to impact weight loss in any measurable way.
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Old 10-21-2012, 10:57 PM   #3
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I agree with Lockitup!

The most I eat before bed is Apple Sauce. I do not eat heavy foods because I want a good night sleep. I don't know about anyone else; but sleeping on a fully stomach is very uncomfortable.
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Old 10-21-2012, 10:58 PM   #4
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when you're eating at a deficit, you're eating at a deficit regardless- it doesn't matter if you're done eating at 1pm or 1 am. you just might not see that deficit right away in the morning if you have dinner at 1 am (unless you're sleeping till noon).

I believe that the reason why you shouldn't eat late/ gospel of this is that when lets say, you eat by 8 pm right... you go to bed by like, 11 or midnight- you've had the 3-4 hours to digest the food, you're not ravenous, then you go to bed, and you're "fasting", but you're sleeping, you can't really tell you're hungry.

For me, if I go more then like, 3 hours without eating, I get hungry, unless I'm sleeping. That's why I eat by 7 or 8, and go to bed around 11.
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Old 10-21-2012, 10:59 PM   #5
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I weigh myself before I go to bed, so in my case I obviously don't want to have eaten right beforehand, I also like to give my body some time before bed to digest and rest.

But as LockItUp said, if you're in a deficit for the day I don't think it really matters what time you eat.
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Old 10-21-2012, 11:29 PM   #6
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I also always believed this fact to be true, even though it makes little sense. Like what LockItUp says, I think it's the overall deficit that matters, not what time you eat, or how often you eat. Yes, you might see a higher weight the next morning, but your weight over the course of time should still go down if you are maintaining a deficit.

However, my weight loss has been exceptionally slow this time around, and I wonder if eating late has anything to do with it. I wait until my husband comes home from work to serve dinner, so we can all eat together as a family. In relation to my bed time, dinner is late!

The other problem with holding off on dinner until late is that it extends my "eating day." For a typical work day schedule (say 8-5 work day), I might spread out my calories (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack) over 11 or so hours. But because I get up so early and eat dinner so late, I'm trying to spread out my calories over 14 or so hours. That means more smaller meals or suffer through the last stretch. It's not that many more hours, but sometimes I'm so hungry by the end of the day! It can make control a little difficult, and I put myself at risk for over eating.

On days when my husband has the day off, I like to eat really early. Then later, if I get hungry, I can have a little snack.

I've finally come to a point where I think it's OK if we don't sit together every night, as long as we have a family meal a couple of times a week. With activities and my schedule, sometimes it's just easier that way. Plus, I find that I sleep better when my stomach isn't full of food when I lie down for bed.

Is it possible you could compromise and have dinner earlier on some days, later on others?
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Old 10-21-2012, 11:39 PM   #7
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I really don't think it makes a difference. Personally I need to eat something close to when I'm going to go to bed because otherwise I cannot sleep.
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Old 10-21-2012, 11:52 PM   #8
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I seem to be losing fine. I eat a snack shortly before bedtime, like I always used to do for desse3rt. It's usually lower calorie/mopre nutritious than 1/2 a cheesecake these days, but I just feel like I wnt that evening snack. I'm one of those "doin' it all wrong" people anyhow, though. I don't eat breakfast, just a couple of cups of coffee until about 1pm. I have a 500 calorie-ish meal around 1pm. If I'm hungry at 4pm, I usually have yogurt and fruit or some other light meal/heavy snack, 200-ish calories. Dinner is always at 7 since that's when Robert has his lunch hour for work. about 500-600 calories. Later, it's popcorn usually or some veg or fruit or even 1/2 a candy bar. It hasn't seemed to stop me from losing. Might be different for others.

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Old 10-21-2012, 11:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mottainai View Post
Research, personal experience, opinions?
I'm a medical writer and have talked to several obesity doctors about this issue. They all say the timing of meals doesn't matter (as long as it doesn't affect the amount of physical activity you do).

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Old 10-22-2012, 12:08 AM   #10
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Calorie deficit the bottom line, though some people (I'm definitelyh one of them) have trouble reigning in night time hunger. For me, once I get started "snacking" in the evening, it can be hard to stop, especially if I choose carbier snacks.

However, late meals don't present the same challenge, though if I eat too late, I do tend to wake in the middle of the night hungry, and can find it hard to get back to sleep (so the temptation to get up and have a snack is very strong). This may be a blood sugar thing.

I don't worry about the clock too much, but if I am going to eat late, I do have to be prepared for the urge to give in to the munchies. I have to be prepared either with snacks that fit into my calorie budget or have to "tought it out" if I find myself extra hungry.

Not everyone has such issues though, so you just have to experiment to see whether there are any down sides to an eating schedule change and if you're willing to deal with whatever consequences there are.
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:16 AM   #11
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I've actually been experimenting with this with my own body. For me, I have noticed that the weight seems to come off at a more rapid rate when I cut off my eating earlier in the day than later in the day. I've lost weight PLENTY of times in the past and have always kept a spreadsheet of my journey (I got thousands of them LOL). This time around, I incorporated intermittent fasting (where I eat all my calories in a certain amount of hours...which happen to be earlier in the day for me) and I've never lost weight at this rate before. Could it be a fluke this time around? Maybe....but I highly doubt it. This has been my experience thus far.
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:17 AM   #12
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My question is: just because he likes eating late, why do you think you have to do the same? Why can't he adjust and eat earlier? Or, maybe you can just both eat on your own schedules.

My fiance and I have completely different eating schedules, but we do have one meal where we'll often eat at the same time: his first and my last. If it were up to me I would be finished eating by 5pm, when he usually has his first meal around 3 or 4 pm. We usually eat that meal together and he'll eat another meal later in the day when I might just have a light snack if I feel the need.

It doesn't matter when you eat, but if you just don't like eating later in the day then that's another story.

For me, even if I'm STARVING and it's 10pm I won't eat. I just hate eating or drinking that late at night that I will go to bed hungry or thirsty because of it. This was true even when I was at my highest weight, so it's not something I was doing for weight loss or maintenance purposes!
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:40 AM   #13
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Oh BTW, the research that originaly spawned the myth about eating late found that people who ate more at night tended to be heavier - further research found that people who ate most of their calories at night tended to eat more than people who spread their calories throughout the day - and then later research (more recently) found that it's the calorie intake, not when it's taken in that matters.

Probably one of the reasons late eaters tended to eat more than early eaters is that many of them were probably crash dieting, and starving themselves all day, then when they did start eating in the evening, found it difficult to stop.

Also many evening eaters are eating in front of the tv or while reading or otherwise multi-tasking (and that also has been shown to affect how much people eat. When you're eating while doing something else like reading or watching tv, it can be easy to lose track of how much you've eaten).

As long as you're keeping track, it doesn't matter.


Also, on the topic of eating with spouses, hubby and I are on very different eating schedules. We only eat a few meals together per week. We're both dieting, but our food plans are different enough that we've established a "fend for yourself" policy for most meals. Yesterday I decided I wanted steak and eggs and brussels sprouts for brekfast, so I asked hubby if he wanted me to make him breakfast also (he said yes to the steak and eggs, and no to the brussles sprouts - can't imagine why).
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:41 AM   #14
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It doesn't matter when you eat. All is a matter of preference/habit. I tried eating much later to prevent nighttime snacking, but I'm finding I am doing better now, at this point in my life, being done by 5-6 pm at the latest. Big breakfast, big lunch, light snack for dinner and I'm good. Much of my nighttime eating, I'm finding, is mental habit and munchies, rather than actual hunger!
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:57 AM   #15
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I'm with Angie, cutting off meals by 6pm has always worked in my favor. I don't think a snack is an issue but eating an entire meal at 8:30pm and then going to bed is a no no in my book. Just my opinion based on personal experience..
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