Late Night Eating

I’m my own Guinea Pig, unknowingly at times but living a life of dietary experiments on the daily. My latest self-discovery involved a never-ending band concert followed by a late night dinner.

This past Tuesday, one of my daughters had an end of year band concert. She was to be at school by 6:30pm for role call, and her band was scheduled to be the last to perform. Even though I had had a light late lunch (2-3pm) with my sons, I had dinner ready for her when she arrived home after school. I wasn’t hungry so decided to wait to eat until after the concert.
After rounding up all 6 of us, we got out the door and she made it to the concert on schedule. By the time the third group finished performing the concert was 1 hour behind schedule. Four hours after the start of the concert, my daughter’s band took the stage. The concert ended a little before 11pm that night. By the time we got home, I was famished!! I heated up a plate of the hearty dinner I had cooked to tide her over through the concert. I had a moderate serving of cube steak with gravy, boiled potatoes, and fresh green beans. Yum, right?! It tasted as good as it sounds. But guess what we did after we all had our late night meal… We went to bed and slept like a baby. You know that tryptophan induced coma you get after each Thanksgiving meal? Yep, that’s the hard crash I had within minutes of finishing that meal. The next morning wasn’t pretty either. I was still groggy and felt bloated when I woke up. Stepped on the scale and about lost it in a crazy-hormonal-midlife-woman kind of way. I had gained 3 pounds over night!?! And I’m not kidding when I say my emotions were on their very own roller coaster ride. I rationalized with myself that it was water weight; that all things shall pass, and pass soon I’d hoped. Unfortunately that was not the case.
Three days later and I have only dropped 1 of the 3 pounds gained from eating that hearty dinner at 11 o’clock at night just before retiring to bed. I’ve heard “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” But, I had never truly given it much thought.

I did what I do, and researched. I found data released in 2016 February from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). In this study non-insulin taking middle-aged women were followed for approximately 5 years, by reviewing their daily dietary diary. Their daily diary included their bedtimes, and twice daily insulin and BMI levels. The results showed that late night eating correlated with higher insulin resistance and weight gain.
Could this be the answer to so many women’s concerns of gaining weight later in life? Could this SWAN study be the swan song to women’s weightloss?! Maybe, but let’s not get all giddy here. Of course, I had to have supporting evidence, a secondary resource, to confirm these findings. What I found was a report released 2015 April, compiling data from 70 different studies related to nighttime eating and nutrition. The authors of this report stated that weight gain has been shown to occur in response to large, heavy calorie, meals in people that ate a majority of their daily calorie intake during the night. Aha! This is good to know, confirms that my 3 pound overnight weight gain resulted from my late night heavy meal and there is something I can do to prevent it in the future.

Reading the report got me wondering if only high calorie meals cause added weight, or will any late night munching pack on the pounds? (I do enjoy an after dinner treat or nightcap on occasion.) Interestingly, the data suggests that weight gain may not be consistent in men and women when the food choice is small, nutrient-dense, low calorie foods rather than heavy calorie ridden meals.
The authors concluded that prior research focused only on high caloric meals, combined with irregular sleep patterns, does increase the odds to gain weight, and develop cardio metabolic diseases in both men and women. However, current findings show that consuming small ~150 kcal protein-rich meals appear to improve overnight muscle protein synthesis, morning metabolism and satiety in most men. In women, however, the opposite occurred. Small, low calorie meals prior to bed resulted in weight gain and insulin resistance. On a positive note, daily strength and cardio training in women seemed to reverse these negative affects and was shown to improve cardiovascular health.

Whoa, wait, what was that? Yep, for Women, nighttime eating has been shown to put on the pounds. So, ladies, it’s not all in our heads, Men do have a small advantage to weightloss. By watching what we eat, when we eat it, and how often we exercise we can all improve our heart and maintain a healthy weight.

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