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Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: March 22, 2022
There has been a discussion for a while on the exact time you need to stop eating for the day. Numerous factors influence when someone stops eating. These may include habits, appetite, work schedules, social settings, and personal preferences.
The primary concern for almost everyone is that eating too late might contribute to weight gain. Although we all have an opinion on the right time to stop eating, you might wonder whether any of it is backed by scientific research.
How long do you need to stop eating before bedtime? Is it healthy? Will it affect your weight loss, gain, or sleep pattern?
We’ve put the nighttime eating theories to the test – keep reading to find out what produces the best weight loss results
Suggested Times To Stop Eating If You Need To Maintain or Lose Weight (What Research Says)
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Perhaps you would like to fuel your body for better performance and recovery? You’ll need to consume sufficient calories in the form of nutrient-dense, high-quality foods, instead of focusing on the precise timing.
Nutritionists claim that there’s no blanket recommendation for people’s personal nutritional needs, particularly for athletes.
They also insist that it will be wrong with nutrition for them to say with a broad sweeping generalization that nobody should be eating after a specific time.
And based on research, there is insufficient evidence that the exact time you consume your calories is of high importance.
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a 2013 study that didn’t find any association between eating at 5 p.m. and weight gain. The International Journal of Obesity also published a study that came to the same conclusion.
However, for most people who take their dinner after 5 p.m., the results were the same. The British Journal of Nutrition published a study of teens and children that discovered eating after 8 p.m. didn’t cause weight gain.
For athletes, it may even be beneficial to have a small snack/ meal before bedtime, particularly during intense training periods. For instance, when it comes to protein, it’s advantageous to meet your requirements throughout the day.
Nevertheless, there’s some evidence that shows eating some casein protein – commonly found in dairy – can facilitate optimal muscle recovery throughout the night. It would be best to take a small glass of chocolate milk or a piece of string cheese.
When Should You Stop Eating at 6 p.m.?
Let’s be honest. For most hard workers, 6 p.m. Often finds you on your way home. And if you are on a hungry stomach, this might not be the best advice.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health claims that not eating after 6 p.m., or intermittent fasting, might be more effective for cutting down weight than consuming a low-calorie diet every other day.
Generally, cycling your calories throughout 24 hours may help inhibit the slowdown in your metabolism that usually happens with calorie restriction.
The after-6 diet also works for most people primarily because it is much easier to follow than a low-calorie diet.
When Should You Stop Eating at 7 p.m.?
According to nutritionists and health experts, having your last meal before 7 p.m. allows your system to adjust and perform digestion in time. The mind and body are always functional throughout the day.
That means by the end of the day, your energy level decreases.
This calls for a booster that activates the entire body and makes it function faster as well. As a result, eating before 7 p.m. provides your body with sufficient time to settle down before bedtime.
If you eat early, your body is involved in movement and motion that assists to burn calories gained and, in turn, facilitates weight loss. The routine also helps you to reach a ketosis state, which is the body’s natural state when it is almost entirely fueled by fat.
Simply put, it is about the system using stored fat primarily for energy.
When Should You Stop Eating at 8 p.m.?
It turns out that there is something to say for practicing a rather extended diurnal fast, one that lasts at least 16 hours. The liver stores glucose and the body uses this preferentially as an energy source before it considers burning body fat.
It usually takes 10-12 hours to deplete the calories in the liver before there’s a metabolic shift to use stored fat.
After eating, glucose is utilized for energy while fat is usually stored in fat tissue. However, during fasts, when glucose is used up, fat is usually broken down and utilized for energy.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you should strive for at least 16 calorie-free hours. The simplest where you could do this is to avoid eating past 8 p.m.
Try skipping breakfast the following morning and eat again at noon the following day. If you are a caffeine-dependent person, you could have sugar-free tea or black coffee before lunch.
How Your Circadian Rhythm Plays a Role in Weight Loss
Your Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle that dictates various things such as, when you feel sleepy and when your immune cells are highly active. The cycle allows your body to prepare for regular events, such as the arrival of food.
There’s no exception when it comes to your digestive system. Since you produce less saliva during night-time, your stomach secretes fewer digestive juices. In turn, the intestinal contractions that usually move food through your gut slow down and you become less sensitive to insulin.
In simpler words, we process food much more efficiently during the daytime. Our bodies are usually set up like this because for a long period eating has been carried out during daytime and night-time was mainly for sleeping.
Cell published research that suggests that the time at which we eat during the day might hamper success in our weight loss journey. Specifically, the study discovered that eating meals very late at night might desynchronize your internal body clock.
According to research, insulin is secreted from the pancreas following the intake of food to help regulate blood glucose levels. If you ingest food outside of usual mealtimes, the subsequent production of insulin also happens outside of a usual schedule. As such, this can disturb the circadian rhythm and affect both weight gain and weight loss.
The stress hormone, “cortisol”, usually peaks at 8 a.m. enabling people to wake from sleep. The hormone falls to its lowest concentration at around 3 a.m.
The increase also occurs in line with sunlight exposure. By noon, your cortisol levels start to fall inverse to adrenaline and serotonin. As a result, this elevates energy and mood.
In particular, the rise in energy levels stimulates hunger feelings and prompts you to eat. The cortisol levels continue to reduce throughout the rest of your day whereas serotonin is broken down into melatonin, which promotes feelings of sleepiness.
There is also a decline in blood sugar levels, which usually drop to the lowest point at 3 a.m. The balance can be interrupted in people that eat meals outside usual times or snack late at night.
The researchers argue that this affects stress levels and digestion.
What Can Happen To Your Body When You Eat Late At Night?
If you eat late at night, the calories you consume don’t get digested correctly. Because of this, they’re stored as fat in the body. Frequent late-night eating conditions the system to store the calories as fat, and this results in weight gain.
Additionally, this can give you complications like heartburn and indigestion. People who take their dinner two hours before bedtime have a low risk of cancer.
Research shows that there was a 26% lowered risk of prostate cancer in men. And there was a 16% lowered risk of breast cancer in women.
Our Top Tips For Reducing Night-Time Cravings
Below are a few tips you could use to avoid eating late at night.
- Avoid skipping meals. Ensure that you eat three square meals and 1-2 healthy snacks every day. Skipping a meal results in late-night hunger, thus unhealthy snacking. Ultimately, this slows down the metabolism.
- Hydrate. You should not that your body may combine thirst and hunger cues. In case you feel hungry late at night, consider taking 1-2 cups of water for instant relief of your hunger pangs. According to dietitians, you should drink 8 glasses of water every day.
- Ensure unhealthy snacks are out of sight. You must be familiar with the notion of out of sight out of mind. Well, it can help fight the desire to consume junk food. So if you crave a particular unhealthy snack, remove it from your grocery list and out of your home.
- Plan ahead for your healthy snack. Consider scheduling an hour after your dinner to consume a healthy snack to minimize stronger cravings much later at night. Avoid waiting until you feel extremely hungry! That’s when most people tend to binge.
- Drink herbal tea. Taking a cup of herbal tea will allow you to feel full and will ultimately pass the time. Because it will take you a while to finish your hot cup of tea, you will feel satisfied and, most likely, bypass the desire to snack on something.
- Keep a food journal. Consider documenting your calorie consumption and eating behavior to avoid falling into a trap of snacking at night. The journal will assist you to be accountable for the meals you pick. It can also help detect unhealthy patterns, which you can adjust and resolve.
- Brush your teeth. Do you feel the urge to grab an unhealthy snack during nighttime? Try brushing your teeth. It sends a psychological signal to the brain that you are done eating and you are preparing for bed. Furthermore, food doesn’t taste as great after brushing your teeth. Because many people find themselves eating out of boredom late at night, brushing your teeth soon after dinner might prevent mindless eating.
- Cut back on the booze. I don’t know about you, but my nighttime cravings go way up if I’ve had a couple of drinks after a long day of work. One of the easiest ways to stay on track with my weight and my eating habits has been to cut back on alcohol at night, especially during the week.
Are There Apps That Can Help?
Many apps can help track when you start eating at the beginning of the day, and when you stop. DoFasting is a highly recommended app.
It provides you with an exciting experience via personalized intermittent fasting plans. In general, this app is ideal for those who are on a weight-loss journey and require a useful tool to primarily track their progress.
Apart from optimizing your metabolism, intermittent fasting also restores your internal rhythm lets your good gut bacteria thrive to benefit you. Generally, this combination of advantages is an effective weight loss system.
When your internal systems improve, it leads to fat burning. Being overweight will no longer be an issue. You will undoubtedly have a successful tool in your hands. The app helps you to lose weight without having to cough a large amount of cash, considering that you’ll be investing in your health.
DoFasting develops a personal fasting plan that can let you eat the number of calories required to lose the excess pounds fast. You can choose from numerous recipes that can keep you satisfied and avoid cravings.
RELATED READING: How Do Noom and DoFasting Compare?
You might have less energy than usual during the first few weeks. But don’t worry! The app offers numerous moderate-intensity exercises to help you boost your energy levels and mood.
Once you start to adapt, you may increase the duration and pace of each fasting routine.
Fasting will significantly minimize the number of times you’ll eat throughout the day. With this app, you’ll ensure that you do it the proper way.
It can be very difficult to control all aspects of fasting without any assistance. That’s why it would be prudent to have an app, better known as a personal fasting assistant.
Some studies report that your body might metabolize food much differently during daytime versus nighttime. However, there is no scientific consensus on the ideal time to stop eating.
Some evidence claim that eating late might adversely affect weight and other metabolic risk factors. That said, the quantity and quality of your meals are equally as important.
The ideal time to stop eating might depend on your specific preferences. Other factors such as hunger levels, cultural practices, and work may also play a role.
As a general rule, consider having your last meal between 1-3 hours before bedtime. It provides your body with time to digest your food with its remaining energy before it rests and prevents food storage as fat.
Consider downloading an app, like DoFasting for example, to help you stay on track.