A long-standing belief of the dieting gurus is that you shouldn’t eat right before you go to sleep. Your body is at its lowest metabolism rate and anything you put in isn’t being burned off. Others say it doesn’t really matter. All that really matters is how many calories you take in during the day versus how much you burn off, and when you eat it isn’t going to make a noticeable difference. So does it really matter?
Yes it does, according to a new study from Northwestern University.
Kelly Glazer Baron and Kathryn Reid looked at how eating food past 8:00 pm affects a person’s caloric intake and BMI. They also were interested in whether or not it mattered when you hit the hay. Does sleeping from 3 a.m. until 11 a.m. make a difference when compared to the more typical 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. schedule?
They recruited about 50 people and asked them to keep a food diary for a week, keep track of their sleeping schedule and wear a motion-sensing device that could confirm their sleeping schedules.
Most of their results reek of common sense. People with a later sleep cycle eat worse. They eat less fruits and vegetables, more fats and more fast foods. I’m guessing those first two are directly related to the last since Veggie King hasn’t exactly caught on in this country. Perhaps a little more surprising, however, is that the late sleepers only consumed 250 more calories. Of course, that could be inaccurate since people were asked to self-report. It could be that they have no idea what four ounces of cheese looks like or that they were too embarrassed to report those three Snickers they put down at 2 a.m.
In any event, those results aren’t surprising. But what was a little eye-opening was the results that came out once a little statistics were involved. I never really took stats, so I don’t know how you control for different variables in order to get a level playing field. However, once done, the number of calories consumed after 8 p.m. was indicative of BMI.
Why this is, the authors aren’t sure. Personally, I think it may have something to do with the fact that the study showed late sleepers to consume their calories unevenly. They ate less in the morning and at lunch and a ton at dinner and afterwards. Previous studies have shown that eating less amounts more often throughout the day helps the body regulate weight. Also, eating after 8 p.m. usually means potato chips and fast food instead of salad or a healthy sandwich. And since lower fat, higher fiber foods are also means to a healthy weight, it stands to reason that the food choices typically available past 8 p.m. negatively affect BMI.
Obviously there needs to be some follow-up studies in order to look into this a little more clearly. But all other reasoning aside, the study did show plainly and simply that people who ate little after 8 p.m. had a lower BMI. So if you’re trying to lose weight, it wouldn’t hurt to follow that guideline in addition to your healthy meal choices, portion control and constant exercise.