With the increasing popularity of intermittent fasting, the ideal time to stop eating at night has been hotly debated. For many years, R.D.s has been urging clients who lose weight to eat dinner before and stop snacking before bed. It seemed like a no-brainer, but the Brigham Young University researchers decided to put the theory to the test.
Jame LeCheminant and his colleagues looked at the short-term effect that nighttime eating restriction had on daily calorie intake, weight trends, and even the mood associated with this deprivation.
They recruited 29 young men and asked them to avoid consuming calories (water was fine) between 7 p.m. at 6 am.
During these two weeks, the participants recorded each bite they consumed, and their weight, mood, and hunger level at breakfast were monitored.
There was a one-week break, and then for a further two weeks (a control period), the subjects were monitored as they returned to their usual way of life.
Here’s what happened: The average weight change was a loss of almost a pound during the two weeks of the overnight fast and an increase of about 1.3 pounds during the control period.
While mood did not appear to be affected during the two weeks of restriction, participants in this group reported being much hungrier upon waking.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since hunger in the morning is likely to inspire you to eat the most important meal of the day (that is, breakfast).
When participants avoided eating between 7 p.m. At 6 a.m., they cut their daily calorie intake by an average of 238 calories. This helps explain the weight loss of almost half a pound per week.
Interestingly, their fat intake decreased significantly, while protein and carbohydrates decreased at a more conservative rate.
This suggests that the subjects did not eat roast chicken or broccoli late at night; Rather, their usual late-night snacks were much higher in fat.
This study supports the already existing advice that runners trying to lose weight should reduce their overall caloric intake.
One way to do this is by intermittent fasting or, when done correctly, “an eating plan based on when you allow yourself to eat,” Natalie Allen, RD, a biomedical sciences instructor at Missouri State University and a dietitian of the all-athlete team from the state of Missouri, they previously told Runner’s World.
A popular intermittent fasting regimen is to fast for 16 hours and have an eight-hour eating window.
That said, it is worth noting that this study was very small (only 29 young participants) and conducted only in men, which also means that the findings may not apply to you.
Ultimately, the “best” diet or eating practice is the one that works for you in the long run, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you pursue healthy goals.
Still, if you are interested in trying this weight-loss method, here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Keep it simple.
You don’t need to use fancy apps to track your eating habits to see results. The study authors state that “there were no devices or record keeping, and the intervention was easy to understand and implement.”
In other words, simply by not eating after a certain amount of time, the participants ingested fewer calories and lost weight.
2. Pick a time that works for you.
In the study described above, participants had to close the kitchen after 7 p.m. What’s so magical about this time? By 7 p.m., the researchers found that most of the participants had probably already eaten dinner (so it was not necessary for the study participants to skip meals and completely deprive themselves and their metabolism).
The study participants’ late-night snacks were shown to be higher in fat and empty calories, but you can select a cut-off time that suits your personal preferences and schedule.
And know that if you need something before bed, find a small, healthy snack like fresh fruits or vegetables or lean protein.
3. Give yourself a reminder.
Make a sign to put in your pantry or refrigerator or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to cut time. This consistency can help you stay on track.
4. Eat dinner earlier in the evening.
After setting the “kitchen closing” time, determine the dinner time that works for you (and your family or home) most nights of the week.
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