The clock-health connection: Eating dinner after 6 pm can affect your health and waistline
Most people have grown accustomed to late-night meals and snacks amid the pandemic. But eating late is linked to weight gain and health problem, says owner of Flax Healthy Living. He tells us why planning an early dinner is the best way to end your day
We've been advised for decades that a calorie is a calorie, and we're sure to remain fit and lose weight as long as we eat fewer of them than we burn. Increasingly though, it seems like it's not only what you eat but when you eat your food that matters when it comes to staying healthy.
My father is a diabetic patient and I understood the importance of healthy eating and eating on time only when I was looking after him and trying to find a remedy for my own unhealthy lifestyle.
I started my journey as a DJ and led a very erratic life. That was when the idea of Flax: Healthy Living came into my mind and I launched my on-demand, health food restaurant, Flax. While I was trying to find the correct balance between work and healthy eating, I did some research on eating on time and used these learnings to improve my own lifestyle.
It is important to remember that the body doesn’t fiendishly stockpile food as fat when the clock strikes 6 pm, but eating late at night is linked to weight gain.
This is likely because no one gets out of bed in the middle of the night to raid the refrigerator for salads. A lot of late-night eating is mindless and 'mindless eating' is consistently linked to overeating and weight gain.
Our body does not have an external clock, but it has an internal rhythm that schedules our major body functions. These 24-hour cycles, called the 'circadian rhythms,' regulate everything we do, right from when we feel tired to enabling our bodies to complete all our daily tasks.
The timing of your meals can also influence weight control, metabolic regulation, heart health, and the sleep cycles of your body.
There are several benefits to eating your dinner before 6 pm...
The weight loss theory
Having an early dinner is linked to a lot of health benefits. An early dinner is good for digestion, and anything that is good for digestion aids weight loss. It is widely believed that the body is wired to the movement of the sun. The later you eat, the more the chances of the food lying in the intestines, and affecting your digestion.
Better sleep at night
If food is eaten earlier, it is not only easier to digest, but you also sleep well and wake up energised too. On the other hand, eating late at night tends to leave your body in a high alert state hence, interfering with the circadian rhythms. When you eat food too close to your bedtime, the chance of heartburn and indigestion can increase, making it harder for you to fall asleep.
Good heart health
Ideally, there should be a decrease in blood pressure of at least 10% at night, allowing the body to rest well. If the pressure stays high, there is a risk of heart failure and even stroke in serious cases.
Those that eat their dinner late are most likely to suffer from "non-dipper hypertension," which is a condition in which, blood pressure does not decrease properly. By maintaining the right time gap between your dinner and bedtime, this danger can be averted to a great degree.
Eating before 6 pm does not mean that you should stay hungry every night. It is about having a well-distributed and nutritious diet all day, ideally divided into four or six smaller meals. The idea is to feed the body well during the first half of the day so that you have the energy to take on all the tasks that come your way.
Trying to eat at the same time and sticking to it will easily make the transition happen. However, do not be afraid to eat if you're legitimately hungry in the evening or even late at night. A person should not push through hunger pangs just because of what the clock says.
(Images credit: Shutterstock)
Edited by Asha Chowdary
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)