“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”. American author and nutritionist Adele Davis once famously said.
Is there any truth in this thought? Can eating late at night be the reason you’re gaining weight? The longer answer is YES and NO.
Many nutritionists and trainers over the years have made statements like “one shouldn’t eat after 8pm because of the impact on weight gain due to spiking insulin levels”. I too was also in this camp however my train of thought started to shift about two years ago.
Here at PGPT not one meal plan or diet is the same for our clients and we really need to take environment and habits into consideration along with other factors like their DNA testing results, before planning a food programme. Yes, we have had some phenomenal results prescribing an intermitted style fasting diet. Traditionally I like the 16-8 style. That’s 16 hours of fasting (fluids with zero calories are fine) and 8 hours of eating (generally 3 or 4 meals in that 8-hour window). For most clients, due to their work habits a 12-8pm window would generally be the best option.
We have also had amazing body fat reduction and weight loss goals with some clients that have eaten their dinner at 10pm due to their busy work schedules and lifestyle.
I strongly now believe that weight gain or loss is solely down to calories in, calories out and not eating your supper late at night. Keep it simple folks.
Let us take Dave as an example. If Dave has been set a weight loss programme and should follow 1850kcals a day to lose 2lbs a week and loves to have a big breakfast of 800kcals made up of eggs, smoked salmon, avocado etc and then skips lunch and doesn’t get home until 8pm from work then clearly, he still has 1000kcals to play with and is well in his right to have a decent size supper of a maybe a 300g steak with a jacket potato and side salad of tomatoes and cucumber. I would add the calories in this meal to be around 900kcals. If Dave likes to watch TV and doesn’t want to go to bed until after midnight. Can Dave then grab a couple of cubes of Lindt 70% dark chocolate or have a punnet of blueberries while watching telly? Yes, sure. Go for it.
People eat at night for many reasons. It’s more to do with boredom and stress than it has to do with hunger. I know speaking from personal experience! I find it hard to control snacks after dinner. Last night was a classic example in which I ate dinner at 8.15pm. I had used up all my calories for the day. I then watched TV (Curb your Enthusiasm to be precise). I proceeded to eat four biscuits and then a chocolate. There was no reason for doing this. Only 20minutes earlier I had finished my dinner of chicken skewers, couscous and a side salad and had felt very full. If I had been working late and come home like I usually do around 9.30pm I would have had my dinner, then showered and gone to bed.
I think eating late at night has far more to do with problems such as indigestion and sleeping than it does with weight gain.
If you are not so fussed about breakfast, then don’t eat it. Maybe take on a protein shake for 100kcals and have a black coffee. If you are a foody and like to eat in restaurants for dinner, then save your calories for when you use them.
If you need to function and be alert for work then have a nutritious breakfast of mixed berries, Greek yogurt a couple of eggs etc. Be aware that you are using up about 450kcals this way as opposed to option one which is 100kcals. You will have less room to play with at either lunch or dinner.
Work out what sort of personality you are. Do what works and do what is sustainable. See what types of food make you feel fuller for longer? Do you respond better to a carbohydrate, fat or protein? Understand your personality type. Are you a snacker or grazer or do you like three meals a day? And finally, if TV or the computer is a trigger for you when it comes to food then it may be time to find a new hobby. Maybe a class in the evening or a walk around the block with your partner.
The most important piece of advice I give to all clients is, be consistent. Find the patterns that work for your lifestyle. Make little tweaks and changes as you have different events and different types of foods throughout the week.
So, is eating after 8pm bad for you?? Well only if you have eaten you daily allowance!
Success in health,
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