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The Dark Side of Night Eating

Loading up on calories in the evening may adversely affect weight loss efforts.

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Consuming calories at night

It’s true: Raiding the fridge at night could make it harder for people to scale down. Among 1,200 adults who kept detailed food diaries from 2012 to 2017, those who consumed a lower percentage of their daily calories after sunset consumed fewer calories overall as compared to those who ate more at night. This is according to a study led by researchers at Ulster University in Northern Ireland and presented at the 2020 European and International Congress on Obesity.

The timing of when we eat our calories is increasingly being shown to influence the way our bodies behave, including altering certain hormone levels that appear to play a role in body weight management. Also, the food choices people make later in the day—say, when lounging on the couch watching TV—can upend healthy eating goals. Those who ate the largest portion of daily calories at night had poorer diet quality scores—they were more likely to eat heavily processed foods, consume alcohol and choose fewer nutrient-dense edibles overall.

See also: A Case for Carbs Before Morning Training

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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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