Weightloss

Why Late-Night Eating Is Making You Gain Weight

There’s so much information available when it comes to losing weight, making it challenging to decide the course of action that’s right for you. So what’s a dieter to do? Well, to start, you need to know that when you eat and what you eat can make a major difference in your weight loss progress, and we’re here with the do’s and don’ts to help you stay focused and reach your end game.

One of the most effective ways to lose weight is to stop indulging at night. Eat This, Not That! reached out to Laura Burak, MS, RD, founder of GetNaked® Nutrition and author of Slim Down with Smoothies, to learn why snacking and late-night eating causes dieting chaos. Read on to learn to also learn about the changes you can make to your nighttime eating habits, and next, check out You’ll Never Lose Weight if You Still Do These 5 Things, Expert Says.

How eating late at night can cause weight gain.

man eating leftover pizza as a late night snack
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Burak reveals three reasons why your late-night snacking habit can be stifling your weight loss goals.

You consume more calories than your body needs.

There’s a great reason why you should avoid snacking in the evening. Burak tells us, “First of all, you’re consuming more calories (energy) that are unnecessary at that time of day for most people and your body can’t use the energy so instead it gets stored as fat.”

The majority of individuals require energy from food throughout the day, but Burak points out, “Whether it is intentional or not, we tend to snack the most and have the largest meal at night, which can create an imbalance in energy use.”

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The bottom line is, your body doesn’t need energy in the evening before you head to sleep.

Eating close to bedtime may cause digestive issues that can disrupt sleep.

Not only can eating and snacking late keep you up at night, but this bad habit can bring on reflux and gastrointestinal discomfort as well.

“Heavier, higher-fat foods in larger amounts than necessary can take longer to digest, can disrupt sleep, lead to overall discomfort like that feeling of being too full, can exacerbate heartburn, and especially together, all these factors may set you up for a harder time losing weight,” Burak says.

Oftentimes, the foods you eat late at night are unhealthy, high-calorie foods.

We all know that the foods we’re drawn to late at night aren’t carrots and celery. Most of the time, we seek out satisfying, high-calorie foods. While these are foods you should stay away from in general if you want to lose weight, Burak says it’s particularly important to avoid them at night. They include fried foods, dishes with lots of sauce and cream, and too many “simple carbs.” Simple carbs include desserts, which are a major no-no when you’re trying to lose weight.

The Cleveland Clinic stresses the importance of staying away from salty snacks, like potato or tortilla chips, in addition to the dips that accompany them. These are filled with starches and fats. You should also avoid items that contain alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. If you have a sweet tooth, dieting can be especially challenging. Sugary snacks such as candy bars and cookies contain refined sugar. Stay away from these, but if you want to treat yourself occasionally, have your cheat earlier in the day.

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Tips to prevent weight gain from late-night snacking.

late night snack
Shutterstock

Front-load your meals for the day.

To avoid nighttime snacking in the first place, Burak suggests getting to the root of the problem by changing the way you eat your meals. “One of the first ways to improve your health is to actually swap your day around,” she explains.

Front-loading your meals means having larger meals early on in the day, and then eating lighter when approaching the evening hours. This makes perfect sense since we’ve all been on the couch, relaxing, watching a great show on the television, and wanting to snack. If you eat enough healthy, solid meals earlier in the day, you may not feel as hungry to snack at night in the first place.

RELATED: 5 Foods To Eat at Each Meal for Faster Weight Loss, Dietitian Says

Allow 10 to 12 hours of “digestive rest.”

A great rule of thumb is to give your body a solid 10 to 12 hours of what Burak refers to as “digestive rest.” This timeframe of not eating begins at your last meal and goes until your meal the following morning. For example, if you eat your last meal of the day at 6 p.m., don’t have breakfast until 6 a.m. or later the next morning. Hence, no late-night foods!

Alexa Mellardo

Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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