Diet Mythbusting

Does Eating After 6 pm Cause Weight Gain?

There are several schools of thought regarding how eating affects one’s weight. Some studies support the notion that eating in the evening beyond 6 pm can result in weight gain, while some disapprove of this idea.  Some believe that weight gain or loss is dependent on what you take in rather than what time you eat. This article is going to give answers to the question, “does eating after 6 pm cause weight gain?” 

This should clear all your doubts in that respect. “I don’t truly know where this rule comes from,” says Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical center. Most people are not home from work at 6 pm, where does that idea come from?

The Connection Between Nutrition, Time, and Weight

The body features an internal clock called the circadian clock. This clock controls a biological process called the circadian rhythm– a 24-hour cycle, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Some studies showed that eating at night disrupts the 24-hour cycle. They said, according to the circadian rhythm, the night is meant for sleeping and not eating. Therefore, eating at night does not go with the circadian rhythm. 

In an animal study, mice were used for the study. The set of mice that ate at sleeping hours acquired more weight than those that ate at waking hours. This study supports the notion. However, you cannot compare the body system of humans to that of mice. Actually, several pieces of research on humans revealed that there is no link between eating time and weight gain. 

Some scientists sampled about 1600 children that ate after 6 pm and found no connection between weight gain and the time of eating. This is because children do not work, so their nutrition is normal throughout the day. Their breakfast, lunch, and dinner features the same or almost equal amount of calories.

On the other hand, some adults were also sampled and subjected to eat after 6 pm, and results revealed that there was some weight gain after a while. Most adults eat more calories after work because of the whole day’s stress. Most times, working adults do not eat much before going to work; the only time they have to eat a good meal is after 6 pm. Eating more calories after 6 pm can result in weight gain, so it is more about what you eat than the time you eat.

Late Eating

In the real sense, eating late can affect your food choice. People that eat late most times choose foods that are poor in nutrition and thus can be fattening, such as ice cream, soda, and other high-calorie foods. Most people who eat late at night do not have much choice than to eat foods that have poor nutritional values. This is because at that point there might not be alternatives; they just eat what they see. 

A research was carried out on night workers and their eating lifestyle. They discovered most night workers tend to feed on snacks and junks, which is convenient and easily accessible. People eat late for different reasons:

  • Working Late. For occupations such as doctors, journalists, bartenders and so on, it is almost impossible not to eat late. Most times, they just eat anything that is comfortable for them during their working hours.
  • Physical, Emotional Stress and Anxiety. All these can cause an individual to lose sleep at night. Staying awake late in the night equals eating snacks and junks. Consistent eating of junk foods and snacks at night may result in weight gain.
  • Movies and Gaming. This is most common among young adults and singles. They are mostly up all night engaging in online games with friends all around the world or watching movies. This is the only time of day they are chanced to do that. It is impossible to engage in all these activities late at night without chipping in some chips, ice cream, fries, and other snacks.

Regardless of the time of eating, whether morning, afternoon or dinner, eating more calories than normal will definitely lead to weight gain. That is just logical. Some scientists carried out research on about 60 people, trying to find out the link between eating time and the amount of calorie intake. They found out that a majority of the individuals consumed more calories after 6 pm than those who ate their meals earlier in the day. Therefore, we can conclude to some extent that their weight gain is not because of the timing but the amount of calories taken. 

In case you are hungry late in the night, there are better food choices than eating snacks, chips and other foods that contain high amount of calories. Some of them include:

  • Avocado with cottage cheese. 
  • Carrot sticks with hummus dip
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with blueberries
  • Whole grain toast with ham
  • Almonds and walnuts
  • Whole grains
  • Mushrooms

Late Night Eating Does Not Make You Fat

In the six month study, scientists looked at those who ate their largest meal for breakfast versus those who saved it for dinner after 8 pm. The ones that waited lost more fat, as well as were more full with positive fat loss hormone changes. Do not get it all wrong! We are not trying to conclude that late-night eating can cause weight loss rather than weight gain. As a matter of fact, the timing has nothing to do with weight. Why not consider what they ate rather than the timing?

Final Thoughts

Keeping your weight in check is not dependent on what time you eat but on what you eat. Make an eating plan that ensures that your calorie intake is minimized. Instead of focusing on what time you eat, engage yourself with healthy workouts and foods with high nutritional value. 

In case, you are up all night, consider eating foods that are low in carbs. Some studies also revealed that eating breakfast high in carbs would help reduce cravings late in the night. 

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