How Does When You Eat Impact Your Weight?

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


Why shifting the timing of your meals could help budge the scale

If you’re trying to lose weight, considering when you eat may boost your success. Munching too close to bedtime and not eating soon enough after waking up may actually hamper weight loss—and could even interfere with your quality of sleep. To keep the scale moving in the right direction, follow these three rules.

1. Avoid Eating A Big Meal Too Close to Bedtime. A late dinner may raise your body temperature and interfere with the release of melatonin—a hormone that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycle—while also increasing blood sugar and insulin. Combined, these body changes make it more difficult for you to sleep well and reduce how much fat your body naturally burns while you snooze. Schedule supper at least three hours before bedtime for a better night’s rest.

2. Limit After-Dinner Snacking. While it’s true that your metabolism slows down slightly at night, the bigger issue with post-dinner nibbling is that you're more likely to reach for unhealthy foods, such as potato chips and ice cream, which is a habit that contributes to weight gain. In addition, if you often nosh while watching television or playing on the computer that can distract you from recognizing your body’s natural “I’m full” cue. If you’re truly hungry for a bite after dinner, choose a healthy, portion-controlled snack, ideally one that contains a tryptophan, which can help you fall asleep

3. Don’t Skip Breakfast. Aim to have breakfast within an hour or so of waking up.People who eat a morning meal tend to weigh less than those who don’t. That’s because having a breakfast that’s high in fiber and protein (like cottage cheese with fruit, or eggs and whole wheat toast) keeps you full and helps prevent mindless snacking and overeating later in the day.

Remember, if you’re trying to lose weight, scheduling your meals around your sleep schedule won’t help if you’re not eating a healthy diet that's rich in vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and whole grains, as well as monitoring how many calories you consume throughout the day. Timing matters, but the quality of your diet is most important!