There are so many opinions on what time to have dinner in order to avoid gaining weight that it’s no wonder most of us are left utterly confused. So when should you have dinner? Is it 7pm? Should your cut off be at 5pm… or even the harsher 2pm? These are all times that have been supported by researchers in recent years. And although their conclusions may vary, it appears that they all support one main theme: increasing the hours of your evening fast – meaning the number of hours you do not supply your body with food overnight – leads to a slimmer waistline.
Up Until 2pm?
Research presented at the annual obesity conference held in New Orleans supports that eating from 8am to 2pm is better for successful weight control compared to the more traditional extended schedule of eating from 8am to 8pm. The more restrictive eating schedule causes your metabolism to burn more fat and increases weight loss. Researchers also observed that participants of their studies felt less hunger on the more restrictive schedule, even though this may seem less logical. Feeling less hunger leads to less snacking, which is often the culprit in weight gain. Experts, however, also note that more research is required into this controversy before the best method can correctly be identified.
Thicker Waistlines For Those That Eat Later?
Even though the question about the ideal time for dinner, and its relation to weight maintenance and weight gain, remains largely unanswered, recent research in men and women in Chile showed that when they often consumed their dinners late in the evenings, they also had thicker waistlines compared to those that ate earlier, for example up until 7-8pm. Those that routinely ate after 8pm also had a higher body mass.
One theory that tries to explain the observation of earlier dinners being more beneficial to weight management is based on evolutionary biology. In other words, we have developed so as to consume more energy during the day. Our metabolism slows down when night falls because our bodies are preparing for sleep and rest. Consequently, the speed and effectiveness of your body’s metabolism at night decreases and the process of digestion and calorie burning is remarkably slower and more difficult. Therefore it becomes evident that eating later in the evening leads to weight gain.
Remember that you will gain weight no matter what if you consume more calories daily than your body needs to sustain itself. So if you are consuming more than you are burning systematically, then you will gain weight regardless of what time you are consuming them.
What The Experts Say
When should we eat the last meal of the day? This is one of the hottest topics in nutrition today. After evaluating both sides of the debate, it becomes clear that there is no correct answer as of today. Unfortunately, we do not invest nearly enough in nutrition studies and research and cannot validate dietary data adequately. In addition, there are various other parameters that make this question difficult to answer. Naturally, starving all day and eating a huge dinner is wrong. So is going out for food or getting together at home for late dinners. It also isn’t wise to stop eating so early in the day that your stomach growls all evening in hunger. However, the 7-8pm dinner time cut off is also very vague. It really depends on your daily activities. If you are used to going to the gym at 8 or 9pm, you should not consume a heavy meal right before exercising! And if you work nights, having a large meal at 8pm would prove difficult.
As a general rule, and with the data we have available today, it’s smart to eat your last meal of the day about three hours before bedtime so you have enough time to digest smoothly and sleep well. It’s also a good idea to eat most of your calories during the first half of the day and eat lighter meals after nightfall.
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