six o'clock

Are you reaching for that late night snack again before you go to bed? Think twice since this behavior has shown to confuse the internal clock of our metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight as a recent study confirms. Simply help your body do the work it is supposed to and stop eating after six o’clock.

The calorie in calorie out theory

Science tells us that we need  to burn 3500 kcal to lose one pound of fat. That means we have to lower our calorie intake for 500 kcal daily if we want to lose one pound of fat weekly. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t matter when you eat your calories. The calories you consume late at night do not turn into fat more easily than those you consume during the day. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University found no direct link between weight gain and time of eating while studying 47 rhesus monkeys.

If you look at it strictly statistically it is true. It doesn’t matter when you eat but what and how much you eat. This would be completely true if the consumption of food wasn’t different with normal sleepers and those who go to bed very late. The real danger in late night eating is not in the calories we consume but the fact that we completely disrupt our internal clock and enter a vicious cycle of bad eating habits.

Let’s compare just the calorie intake of two people, both eating exactly 2500 calories per day. The first person eats three meals and two snacks during the day and finishing his eating by 8 o’clock in the evening. The other person eats irregularly during the day and has the last meal at about 1 am in the morning. We would probably notice that there wasn’t any difference in their weight gain. However in real life those two people are very unlikely to consume the same amount of calories. Moreover, studies have shown that people who tend to eat late at night consume much more calories than those who stop eating at about 7-8 o’clock in the evening. That’s why it’s not only a case of calorie counting and why the calorie in calorie out theory is not quite right here.

Human behavior and habits – we can’t run away from our internal clock

Researchers at Northwestern University examined the relationship between sleep timing, diet and weight in humans. A total of 51 people age 18 – 71 years (23 late sleepers and 28 normal sleepers) were asked to keep food logs of what and when they ate. Their sleep and wake cycles were monitored by wrist actigraphs.

The researchers found that late and normal sleepers had completely different sleep and eating patterns:

  • ‘Normal sleepers’ were asleep by 12:30 a.m., woke up around 8 a.m., had breakfast by 9 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and their last snack around 8:30 p.m.
  • ‘Late sleepers’ went to bed at 3:45 a.m., woke by 10:45 a.m., ate breakfast at noon, lunch at 2:30 p.m., dinner at 8:15 p.m. and had their final meal at 10 p.m.

additionally late sleeping and eating caused:

  • Overall the late sleepers slept one hour less than normal sleepers
  • More calories were eaten by late sleepers at dinnertime than normal sleepers. They also consumed significantly more calories after 8 p.m.
  • Late sleepers ate more fast food, sodas, and ate fewer vegetables and fruit. Overall their whole diet was poor in quality.

Late night sleeping and snacking confuses our internal clock (circadian rhythms) and our metabolism.

Simply said we are programmed to sleep when the sun goes down, not to start eating.

By disrupting the natural cycle of sleeping and eating we can cause changes in appetite and metabolism, which could lead to weight gain.

The easiest way to lose weight- stop eating after six o’clock

When you want to lose weight it is best to listen to your internal clock and stop eating after 6 o’clock. Combine this with nutritional meals and ingredients that are within your daily calorie consumption goal and you will achieve positive results.

When you don’t eat after six o’clock in the evening you will be hungry when you wake up (this is perfectly normal). It’s very important to eat breakfast in the morning since studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are much more successful in weight loss than those who don’t. Have a snack  between 10-11 am and you’ll be hungry at about 12 am to 1 pm for lunch. Have one more afternoon snack and later dinner at six o’clock. To make that dinner satisfying eat two portions of veggies with one portion of lean protein like chicken or fish. Limit carbs as much as possible since weight loss will be greater if you consume your carbs early in the day instead of  late in the evening. A good dinner choice would be a large salad with chicken breasts or stir fried veggies with lean beef.

By not eating after six o’clock you will be less likely to eat unhealthy food snacking in front of the TV. You will have aligned your metabolism with your internal clock giving it the opportunity to work properly and help you with your weight loss. Simply help your metabolism do the work by not sabotaging it with late night eating.

Why it works

Not eating after six o’clock is crucial for weight loss. Most people come home after work late in the afternoon and eat a large high calorie dinner and continue snacking in front of the TV for the whole evening. This way most calories are consumed  just before sleeping. The metabolism is overwhelmed with all that energy and simply converts everything it doesn’t need into fat.

Not eating after six o’clock helps your weight loss in several ways:

  • You eat less food because you are less hungry
    By not eating after six o’clock you will be hungry in the morning and should have breakfast. During the day you should have several meals and snacks in 2-3 hour intervals. Just because you don’t feel hungry you will eat less.
  • Intermittent fasting
    Not eating from six o’clock in the evening to eight o’clock in the morning gives your body 14 hours to regulate many internal processes. Intermittent fasting normalizes insulin and leptin sensitivity, allowing your body to empty all the sugar reserves and start using fat for fueling your body. This way you lower the possibility of future insulin resistance. Intermittent fasting normalizes ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone) and increases growth hormone levels (HGH) both of which are important for weight loss.
  • You make healthier food choices
    When you are less hungry you will make healthier food choices and will be less likely to over eat on fast food or sugar.

Before you snack – H.A.L.T.

When you have to work late at night or simply get the munchies, To avoid night time snacking, ask yourself these questions:

  • HUNGER- Are you really hungry? If yes, check out some of these ingredients from this grocery list for a healthy snack.
  • HABIT- If you just ate or aren’t really hungry ask yourself if you want to eat just out of habit.
  • ANGER, ANXIOUSNESS – Do you want to eat because you are angry or anxious?
  • LONELY- Do you want to eat because you feel lonely or depressed?
  • TIRED- Did you get enough sleep or do you want to eat because you’re tired or bored?

If your answer is anything but hunger, you’re probably eating too much and don’t really need a snack.

By not eating after six o’clock in the evening you are allowing your body to recuperate and keep in touch with your natural internal clock. This gives you the best chance to make your body work in your favor and help you naturally in the process of losing weight. It’s not that hard to stop eating after six o’clock especially if you have five meals during the day. As a plus you will feel really good in the morning!

Is it hard for you to stop eating after six o’clock? Leave a comment below. What are your worst late night snacks?