I remember as a kid thinking how silly it was to even consider having a midnight snack, but now I understand how appealing it is to consume a sugary treat in the middle of the night when random cravings kick in.
And some of us adults actually have to work during late-night hours, so we may have to eat at abnormal times in order to function.
But what about the golden weight loss rule – no eating at night or you will gain weight? Is it a myth or is it the truth?
Shane Griffin, a certified nutritional practitioner and CEO of Whole Life Balance, said in an email that whether late-night eating will cause weight gain depends on what you eat and if it affects sleep.
“Our bodies metabolize food better at certain times of the day, rather than at night,” Griffin said. “Late night eating can throw off our normal body rhythms and cause us to gain weight.”
He said that the appetite-regulating hormone, ghrelin, is “better regulated in the morning,” so the risk of overeating during the day is less than at night.
“At night, we usually tend to be less active and so our need for fuel is reduced,” Griffin added.
“When we grab the high-sugar, high-fat foods to curb our cravings, since our body doesn’t require these excess calories as fuel, the excess blood sugar not used by cells is sent to the liver to be converted into fatty acids.”
“If the liver can no longer store it, then those fatty acids are returned to the bloodstream, where it is taken throughout your body and stored as fat,” he said.
“Once the popular adipose fat regions of our body are full, namely the stomach, hips, butt, and breasts, the fat begins to accumulate into your organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, which reduces the organ’s ability, raises blood pressure, decreases metabolism, and weakens the immune system.”
After eating simple carbohydrates, such as candy pastries, the body shuts down its fat-burning process so the sugar can be used for energy, Griffin added.
The hormone insulin makes sure the sugar is placed into muscles until their energy stores are full. Once full, the extra sugar is turned into fat.