It’s Monday night at you are still up at 11 pm catching up on e-mail, wrapping up work, or relaxing with a couple episodes of your favorite Netflix show. Suddenly a huge craving hits you for rich creamy rocky road ice cream. Been there done that?
Some studies show that eating at any time of the day won’t matter if it fits into your total caloric intake for that day or if it fits your macros. But does letting yourself eat in the night hours pose a risk for overeating and temptations for unhealthy choices?
Here are some findings in the International Journal of Obesity on nocturnal eating. For the study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recruited 32 adults with excess weight who volunteered for two experimental protocols:
- a 608-calorie liquid meal at 9 a.m., a stress test 2 hours later and, finally, a free-for-all buffet 30 minutes after the stress test laden with pizza, snack chips, cookies and chocolate-covered candies.
- the same sequence, but starting at 4 p.m. and ending after 6:30 p.m.
Both groups began the protocol after an 8-hour fast. Blood tests were used to measure stress and hunger hormones, but participants also rated their subjective levels of fullness.
The Conclusion: The Time of Day Does Influence Hunger and Hormones
Researchers discovered that the time of day significantly influenced hunger levels. There is a stronger perceived appetite in the evening than in the morning, especially if you’re feeling stressed. Eating the test meal later in the day also reduced blood levels of peptide YY, a hormone linked to smaller appetite.
Additionally, the findings suggested that stress may increase the hunger hormone ghrelin more in the evening than earlier in the day and that hormonal influence on appetite appears to be greater for people prone to binge eating.
“The good news is that having this knowledge, people could take steps to reduce their risk of overeating by eating earlier in the day, or finding alternative ways to deal with stress,” said study lead researcher Susan Carnell. She’s an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
So in conclusion, night eating does pose a greater risk for your health, especially if you already have other chronic health conditions or have a stressful lifestyle.
Furthermore, did you know that Night Eating Syndrome (NES) is a real condition? It is observed most frequently among groups of overweight and obese individuals.
Strategies to Curb Night Binging
Take evening walks to reduce stress;
Consume more calories earlier in the day;
Eat high-protein, fiber-rich foods at dinner to quell hunger;
Limiting exposure to television food ads that tempt cravings;
At the grocery store, choose healthy snacks. Avoid brining unhealthy snacks into your home;
Brush your teeth early on after dinner.
Can you relate to this? If you are a snacker and are still hungry, the next time you chill over a Netflix show, consider some healthier snacks to store at home so that you have better choices for your downtime at night.
My Favorite Snacks
Featured photo by: Victoria Heath