Not eating after 7

Eating at night has long been associated with weight gain. Years ago, nutrition pioneer Adele Davis gave her well-known advice to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”

Yet the conventional wisdom today is that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of when you eat it, and that what causes weight gain is simply eating more calories than you burn. Nutrition experts call this the calorie in/calorie out theory of weight control.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weight Control Information Network web site, “it does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.”

A study in the journal Obesity added to the confusion by suggesting that there may be more to nighttime eating than just overeating calories. Northwestern University researchers found that eating at night led to twice as much weight gain — even when total calories consumed were the same. But this research was done on mice, not humans, and the reason for the weight gain is unknown. And a single mouse study should not cause us to toss out the wealth of evidence supporting the calorie in/calorie out theory.

Still, there are good reasons to be cautious about eating at night. Diet books, dietitians, and even Oprah recommend not eating after dinner (other than a small, calorie controlled snack) because it’s just so easy to overdo it.

People eat at night for a variety of reasons that often have little to do with hunger, from satisfying cravings to coping with boredom or stress. And after-dinner snacks tend not to be controlled. They often consist of large portions of high-calorie foods (like chips, cookies, candy), eaten while sitting in front of the television or computer. In this situation, it’s all too easy to consume the entire bag, carton, or container before you realize it. Besides those unnecessary extra calories, eating too close to bedtime can cause indigestion and sleeping problems.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dinner like a pauper’? The logic behind this old proverb is intuitive enough: eat your larger meals (and the majority of your calories) earlier on in the day, and you will have more time to burn them off before bedtime. But is there any truth behind this theory and does eating in the evening really predispose you to weight gain?

Nutritionist Naomi Mead speaks to Dietician and Exercise Physiologist Michael Lawler about the link between diet, weight loss and when we eat:

Does eating late make you gain weight?

In a paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers at King’s College London examined the eating habits of 1,620 children using data from the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme collected between 2008 and 2012.

They tested for an association between evening meal timing (consuming the evening meal before or after 8pm) and risk of overweight and/or obesity, adjusting for relevant confounding variables. They found no significant link between eating after 8pm and excess weight gain in children.

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Are all calories equal?

The above findings support other similar studies in adults, which, contrary to popular opinion, have consistently shown that there is no direct link between what time you eat and weight gain.

From a metabolic viewpoint, a calorie eaten at breakfast is equal to a calorie consumed after the watershed. Weight gain will occur if you consume more calories than you burn, irrespective of the time at which you consume them.

Weight gain will occur if you consume more calories than you burn, irrespective of the time at which you consume them.

‘The way in which calories are utilised by the body certainly does not appear to be strongly determined by the time of day that you eat them,’ explains Lawler.

‘Overall calorie consumption, overall movement patterns and quality of calories consumed such as more from fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and dairy, and less from highly refined, sugar and fat added foods, are all areas that have a much more significant impact to your health.’

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What causes weight gain?

There are still reasons to be mindful about our evening eating habits, and that’s largely because of the types of foods often consumed at night.

After-dinner snacks tend to consist of high-calorie foods such as chocolate, ice cream and crisps which are not necessarily eaten through hunger, but for other reasons such as boredom, stress, fatigue or out of habit (for example while watching television). It is this type of regular mindless eating that can lead to overeating, and result in us taking in more calories than we need.

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Does eating late impact digestion and sleep?

Besides the extra calories, eating too close to bedtime can have other health implications such as digestive issues. When sleeping, our digestion naturally slows down as our metabolism enters a resting state.

Lying down in bed immediately after eating can lead to symptoms such as indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn. This is commonly triggered by high-fat and spicy foods, which should be avoided in the evening if nighttime digestive discomfort is experienced.

Lying down in bed immediately after eating can lead to symptoms such as indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn.

Sleep can also be negatively impacted by late-night consumption of sugary snacks, which will send blood sugar levels soaring. ‘A surge in blood sugar leads to an increased stress response in the body and raises cortisol levels,’ agrees Lawler. ‘This reduces the quality of sleep, just liking drinking alcohol does, by reducing our deep sleep.’

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How to eat healthy in the evenings

When it comes to weight gain, the body doesn’t process calories any differently in the evening than any time of day. And if your job or lifestyle means that dinner isn’t until after 8.30pm every night, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. ‘Don’t feel guilty if you enjoy eating late, just make sure the meal is well balanced and nourishing,’ says Lawler.

To get the best out of your evening meal, Lawler recommends the following healthy eating tips:

✔️ Make your evening meal satiating by including a good source of protein, and plenty of fibre-rich vegetables. Managing hunger will help to curb mindless snacking.

✔️ If you know that you’re a habitual snacker, have some healthier options to hand such as berries and natural yoghurt, oatcakes and nut butter, or a handful of nuts.

✔️ Avoid sugar, caffeine and excess alcohol close to bedtime, which can disrupt hormones, and have a negative impact on sleep.

✔️ If you regularly suffer from digestive discomfort at night, keep a food and symptom diary to help identity what foods may be triggering these symptoms, and avoid eating these in the evening.

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Last updated: 03-12-19

Dr Juliet McGrattan (MBChB) Dr Juliet McGrattan Dr Juliet McGrattan spent 16 years as a GP, two years as a Clinical Champion for Physical Activity for Public Health England and is the Women’s Health Lead for the 261 Fearless global running network. Her award winning book, Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health was published by Bloomsbury in 2017.

Why Scientists Say You Shouldn’t Eat Dinner After 7 PM

Hometime at the office seems to be getting later each day. By the time you’ve finished off those emails, caught the late bus home, and done a cornershop dash for a hasty midweek spag bol, the sun has long gone down.

But don’t get too comfortable in your after dark dining habits. A new study from cardiologists at Dokuz Eylül University in Turkey has found that eating later on in the evening could increase your risk of suffering a heart attack.

There goes the joy of a midnight feast.

The research, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Rome last week, claims that “having dinner within two hours of bedtime did more damage than the long-established risk of having a high salt diet.” To reduce the risk of heart disease, it recommended that people should eat a small dinner no later than 7 PM.

READ MORE: Italian Cheese Might Be the Best Blood Pressure Medicine

Researchers came to these conclusions by analysing the diets and meal times of more than 700 adults who already suffer from high blood pressure. They found that in 24.2 percent of cases in which participants ate dinner within two hours of going to bed, blood pressure failed to drop properly overnight (a condition known as non-dipper hypertension, which increases the risk of heart attacks), compared to the 14.2 percent who ate dinner earlier.

With high blood pressure becoming more of a problem in the UK, linked partly to our growing obesity crisis, it’s hard to ignore the study’s findings. According to the British Heart Foundation, around 30 percent of UK adults suffer from high blood pressure, with another seven million cases estimated to be undiagnosed in the UK.

In a press statement to MUNCHIES, Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, agreed with the Turkish study that “in some hypertensives their blood pressure remains elevated throughout the night putting them at potentially higher risk of future complications.”

He added, however, that further research was needed: “This observation, which needs to be confirmed in further, carefully designed studies, suggests that eating early in the evening may help people to gain better control of their blood pressure.”

Still, it’s a good enough excuse to tell the boss you need to leave early.

If you’re the type of person who regularly finds themselves sitting down to dinner at 9pm, then you might want to take heed of new warnings about what time of day we should have our last meal.

Experts say that having a late-night meal keeps the body on ‘high alert’ at a time where it should be winding down, which can have dangerous implications for our health.

Researchers have now said that we should never eat within two hours of our bedtime, and ideally, nothing after 7pm.

MORE: 6 SLEEP MYTHS DEBUNKED

The warnings come following a study of 700 people with high blood pressure, which found that eating within two hours of bedtime meant the participants levels stayed high.

Apparently, this is because eating releases a rush of stress hormones when the body should be relaxing.

MORE: 5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT SLEEP

People who don’t see a fall in their blood pressure overnight are known as ‘non dippers’, and worryingly, have a much higher rate of heart-related death.

Late eaters were nearly three times more likely to be non-dippers, the Turkish researchers found.

Researcher Dr Ebru Özpelit, presenting her results at the speaking at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Rome, said: ‘If we eat late at night, the body essentially remains on high alert as during the day, rather than relaxing for sleep.’

So you don’t have to worry about being desperate for dinner at 5.30pm – in fact, it might be good for you!

(Images: Getty)

The Harmful Diet Lies You Probably Believe

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As a culture, we go through phases with our diet preferences-low-fat gave way to low-carb, dairy-free begat gluten-free, and eggs (poor eggs) are either omega-rich wunderkinds or insidious cholesterol bombs depending on the current political climate and whether or not Mercury’s in retrograde. Yet, there are some out-there diet myths that we simply can’t seem to shake.

Over the course of The Anti-Diet Project, I’ve struggled to dislodge these false beliefs from my own diet-addled brain, but it’s not easy. When I’ve believed for 10 years that a potato is four points, it’s really hard to see it as a potato again. I still struggle with eating dinner, even when I’m hungry, and I’m fairly convinced it’ll take years of couples counseling for me to ever trust bananas again. We’ll get there one day, bananas.

Considering that I’m clearly bonkers when it comes to food, it helps to have a professional on hand. I enlisted Theresa Kinsella, R.D., to take on some of the diet myths that we’re particularly stuck on. Some of them are problems for me, while others seem to be bugaboos for pretty much everyone. Some seem to be obviously bunk, while I fully expected her to come back with, “Well, that one’s kind of true,” about others. Nope. Turns out, when it comes to the “rules” of eating right, we are almost always ridiculously wrong.

Note: I’m sure that some of the following might not jibe with your current belief system around food. (For the gluten topic alone, I expect a fair amount of tomato-throwing.) I’m not here to convert anyone, nor am I a nutrition professional-but Kinsella is. I hope that even if you disagree with, or don’t believe in, any of these statements, you’ll take it upon yourself to do your own research or reach out to your own medical or nutritional pros. We good?

Myth 1: You Shouldn’t Eat Dinner-or Anything-After 7 p.m.

“There is no universal time that everyone should stop eating,” says Kinsella. “People get up at different times, go to sleep at different times, and eat at different times. Many countries eat dinner later than Americans but their populations weigh less than Americans do. Unless someone has an eating disorder and needs to eat at regular intervals to establish normalized hunger cues, or someone has a self-care reason for eating (like they’ll soon be stuck in a meeting without access to food), it is more important for people to be connected to their internal hunger cues than to be eating based on an external influence, like the clock.”

What’s even more curious is how this diet myth originated. Kinsella wonders if the don’t-eat-at-night rule may have more to do with how we regulate our earlier meals while dieting. “Some people get in bad cycles of skipping breakfast and then overeating at night,” she says. Furthermore, it’s often not about the time we eat but how we’re eating. “Sometimes, people find themselves late-night snacking out of habit while they’re watching TV. Both these patterns should be addressed simply because they aren’t self-care behaviors. But non-hunger mindless snacking at 9 a.m. would be just as much of an issue as 9 p.m.”

  • By Kelsey Miller for Refinery29

Health Myths Debunked: Should You Eat After 7pm?

Do you need to shut down your kitchen at 7pm?

The Myth

You shouldn’t eat after 7pm.

The Background

We can’t pinpoint exactly where and when this concept came to be, but this myth is widespread…

The Facts

While studies in mice may suggest otherwise, current research doesn’t show that humans break down calories any differently at 7am versus 7pm.

So currently, there is no strong evidence supporting the idea that you “shouldn’t” eat after 7pm or that eating at night is “bad” for your health.

But, whether YOU should eat after 7pm is a different story.

Some studies have shown an association between high calorie intake at breakfast (vs. high calorie intake at dinner) and greater weight loss, improved blood sugar control, and improved triglyceride levels, in people who are overweight or obese.

Why?

Eating at night is often associated with eating more calorie dense food, snacking, poorer food choices, exceeding your calorie needs, and mindless eating (ie. eating more).

So if you’re someone who struggles with snacking, staying within your calorie budget, or mindful eating, avoiding eating at night might be a good decision!

Some people aren’t as hungry in the morning or prefer eating larger meals towards the end of the day. If you’re someone who prefers going to bed feeling satisfied, allowing yourself to eat a light meal later in the evening might be a better, more sustainable tactic to help keep you on track.

The Bottom Line

For most people, eating after 7pm isn’t a problem as long as you’re sticking to your calorie budget. Keep in mind that eating regularly throughout the day can help you feel satisfied and make better choices in the evening — when snacking, poor food choices, and mindless eating tend to get the best of some people!

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Here’s How Eating Before 7 PM Can Change Your Life

Planned what you should be eating from breakfast to dinner and think you are done for the day? Think again. You may be missing out on something crucial that can impact your overall health. Turns out ‘when’ you eat could prove to be as important as ‘what’ you eat. And eating your last meal, as early as 7 pm in the evening can do wonders to your health. For the longest time nutritionists over the world have been stressing on not just a light dinner but also an early one, but is it worth the hype? Let’s find out.
Our body doesn’t have an actual clock, but it does have an internal rhythm according to which it schedules major body functions. Called the ‘circadian rhythm’, this internal clock helps the body adjust to environmental changes, sleep, and activities like digestion and eating. Thus, the timing of your meals can affect your body’s weight regulation, metabolic regulation, heart heath and sleep cycle too.

1. Weight Loss
Experts claim, that restricting your meal intake in the window of 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. can reduce the overall calorie intake drastically. This could be because you are most likely to consume fewer calories as the time you have spent in eating has come down. Also a longer duration of overnight fast, helps with increasing fat loss as the body has time to reach a state of ketosis – a natural state for the body, when it is almost completely fueled by fat. In other words the body is using stored fat for energy.

Clinical nutritionist Dr. Rupali Dutta says, “An early dinner is good for digestion, and anything that is good for digestion aids weight loss. It is said that the body is wired to the movement of the sun. The later we eat, more are the chances of the food lying in the intestines, affecting the digestion. On the other hand, if you have your dinner early, you reach the satiety value earlier, the body is able to utilise the food better. The body uses everything we eat. If the calories produced are not put to use, it is stored as fat.”

2. Good Sleep
Over stuffing or eating too close to your bed time can increase the risk of heartburn and indigestion, making it harder to fall asleep. Experts warn against bed time munchies as well. Eating late in the night leaves the body on a ‘high alert’ state, which interferes with the circadian rhythm. It also prevents our body from powering down. If on the other hand, food is taken earlier, it is not only digested better, you sleep well and wake up energised too.

3. Better Heart Health

Nutritionist Meher Rajput further lists down the consequences attached, “For people suffering disorders like diabetes, thyroid, PCOD and cardiovascular diseases, it is advisable not only to have a light dinner but also an early one. As Indians we are used to eating sodium rich food for our dinners. Right from dal, papad, vegetables to meat, all of our preparations reek of salt in rather high proportions. If we happen to take these salty foods later at night, it will lead to water retention and bloating, but most significantly a looming risk of high blood pressure.

Restricting the eating to an early hour also ensures better heart health and keeps cardiovascular risks at bay. Meher says, “As we go on hogging more carbs and sodium in our dinners we put our heart and blood vessels to a greater risk of overnight blood pressure. For people suffering from hypertension it is advisable to eat more complex carbs, oats, brown rice and bran chapatis that can work as healthier alternatives.”

Experts around the world haven’t been stressing on maintaining the two hour gap between bedtime and dinner for nothing. Those who eat their dinner late are most likely to suffer from “non-dipper hypertension”, which is a state where the pressure fails to drop properly over night. Ideally, the blood pressure is supposed to drop by at least 10 per cent at night allowing the body to rest well. If the pressure remains raised, it runs the risk of heart disease and, in extreme cases, even a stroke.

The risk can be averted to a greater degree by maintaining good time gap between your dinner and bedtime.

However, if you do feel hungry in the evening or late at night, it is not advisable to starve either. Instead of helping, it would trigger a host of other problems stemming from an unhealthy relationship with food. In such times you can bank on low calorie, protein rich, low carb foods.

If late night hunger pangs are a common occurrence maybe you need to relook at your diet through the day. The idea is not to starve in the evening, but consuming an adequately spread, balanced diet from 6 a.m. to 7. p.m., preferably split into 4-6 smaller meals. To make this work you need to be eating enough during the first half of the day, the idea is to fuel your body well through the day. Your body would only call for food when it feels depraved of fuel. Fitting your major meals into this window may take several days to adapt. Trying to eat at the same time and sticking to it can bring about the change quickly.

About Sushmita SenguptaSharing a strong penchant for food, Sushmita loves all things good, cheesy and greasy. Her other favourite pastime activities other than discussing food includes, reading, watching movies and binge-watching TV shows.

In 2003, Oprah announced she was no longer eating after 7:30 p.m. to stave off weight gain. “Not even a grape,” she wrote in the January issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, where she meditated on her heaviest (237 pounds) and lightest (145 pounds) selves—and all the dietary tweaks and allowances and emotional ups and downs that led her there. And while this writer, like much of the world, takes everything Oprah says as fact, I never knew why not eating late made sense, instead figuring it simply allotted for less time to burn off calories. Turns out, not only does our body burn fat and our brain reset in the middle of the night, but every organ cleanses itself, too. That is, if our internal 24-hour clock—known as the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal daily time table—is programmed properly to get the job done.

To get your body on track, professor Satchin Panda, a leading expert in circadian rhythms research and the author of The Circadian Code, believes in maintaining an eight- to 10-hour eating window, which allows for a minimum 14-hour overnight cleanse.

“If you look around at anything that moves in our daily life, they all revolve around timing,” says Panda, who often cites the rise and fall of the sun as a good, foolproof example. “And yet, we schedule every in our life around school, work, appointments, phone calls.” This pattern of eating, which for the average American lasts over 15 hours and can go well past dark, when the brain should release melatonin in preparation for sleep, is directly at odds with our biological clocks, he says. “For so long, we often only heard about what and how much or what type of medications to take,” he continues. Instead, Panda believes the answers may lie in “the biology of time, and how our body remembers time.”

It’s a thrilling thought: The best lifestyle may not have to do exclusively with what you eat, but when you eat. And Panda’s interests have led to a growing number of studies and experiments that suggest many diseases plaguing the modern world, from obesity and diabetes to depression and anxiety to various types of cancer, even dementia, are caused by a breakdown in circadian rhythms, he says. Perhaps even more fascinating? “We know diseases get worse when people endure shift work, which leads to circadian disruption,” Panda says of the roughly 20 percent of the U.S. workforce, “but I was really surprised by the range of diseases that reversed—and in two to three months’ time.”

Here, Panda and nutritionist Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., the founder of Real Nutrition NYC, discuss the benefits (better sleep and weight loss are just the tip of the iceberg) and everything you need to know about time-restricted eating, or intermittent fasting, so you can successfully get your circadian rhythm back on track. The bottom line? Oprah was right.

Take Stock of Your Daily Routine

Let’s face it, eating within an 8-hour window such as 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. sounds near impossible—especially if you have children, or live in a bustling city like New York or Paris, or have a job that requires shift work, or simply consider yourself “an average person who just doesn’t like to feel hungry,” says Shapiro. Everyone faces different challenges in his or her schedule, which is why experts simply want you to start off by being mindful about when you are eating. “It takes only two nights of late eating or abusing sleep by less than five hours to cause this disruption,” says Panda. His team at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies recommends starting with a 12-hour window of eating and working your way up to the optimal eight-hour time frame, when endurance, weight loss, and prediabetic reversal can happen in two months. “I call it the magic time,” he says of the duration that may also lead to the end of panic attacks, premenopausal migraines, and period pain, as well as other flare-ups from predisposed diseases.

Start With This Simple Morning Tweak

A 14- to 16-hour “cleanse” period of not eating between dinner and breakfast can sound like a stretch for most people, but according to Shapiro, much of it comes down to perception. “After two to three weeks, you’ll realize that a lot of what your body wants is simply out of habit,” she says, much, like, say, brushing your teeth twice a day. Small tweaks to your normal routine can make a big difference. For instance, consider bringing your breakfast to work, says Panda, instead of eating the minute you wake up. At night, share dinner with your family as usual. It’s worth noting, he continues, that “people who stop at 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. at night are less likely to indulge in dessert and alcohol, and will therefore see the biggest difference .”

Give Yourself a Week to Adjust

The first week is going to be difficult, says Panda. “You will feel hungry, but it’s a healthy hunger.” After three to four hours of not eating, when the body is depleted of sugar, it is ready to tap into the carbohydrates that get stored in your liver, which is actually a good thing, says Panda. “It’s like having a house full of stuff,” he says. “Unless you get rid of it, you shouldn’t go shopping.” Overnight fasting is a different story: By morning, in the last four hours of our fast, we are literally burning fat. “And that fat is converted to ketone bodies, which is going to fuel our brain and heart,” says Panda. Ever tried those expensive hydroxybutyrate supplements that promote fat-burning and mental clarity? “Your body is producing 50 to 100 grams of the same stuff you’re buying,” says Panda. “But for free.”

Should I Stop Eating After 7 PM?

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me whether they should stop eating after a certain time in the day, I probably wouldn’t need to be a dietitian anymore!

My answer to this popular question has always been that it doesn’t really matter what time of day you eat when it comes to how much you “burn”, but our food choices tend to be worse later on in the day – you’re more likely to eat chips or ice cream while sitting in front of the TV at night versus for breakfast first thing in the morning!

However, I recently attended a webinar hosted by Dr. Courtney M. Peterson of the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre on the role of circadian rhythms in weight management that threatened to turn my answer on its head.
Dr. Peterson’s presentation was very fast-paced and covered a lot of ground, including whether eating more frequently helps with weight loss (no), whether skipping breakfast impacts weight loss/gain (no) and whether intermittent fasting helps with weight loss (potentially)

Key Learnings on The Role of Circadian Rhythms in Weight Management

We Have Multiple Circadian Clocks

While most people know about our central circadian clock, which is responsive to light (that’s why it’s recommended to limit screen time before bed), we have peripheral circadian clocks that respond to other stimuli, including meal timing. The theory is that when these internal clocks are out of sync, this could lead to issues in metabolism.

Normally, our hunger should peak in the evening (around 8 PM). It is thought that this is to prevent us from becoming hungry while we’re asleep. However, one study of Muslims observing Ramadan (a holy month where practicing Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset, and eat during the overnight hours) found that even by the second week, levels of leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone, dip in the nighttime, where normally it would peak. In other words, instead of suppressing hunger overnight, the dip in leptin encourages appetite and eating in response to the night time eating that happens during Ramadan. Interestingly, the same study found that there was no effect on ghrelin, another appetite-regulating hormone.

The Time of Day Can Affect Your Metabolism

To test the effect of the time of day on metabolism, another study put subjects through three days of a mock night shift. On the first day, as they transitioned from normal daytime activities to their first night shift, the subjects had increased energy expenditure. The authors attributed this to the subjects spending more hours awake, as they were only allowed an afternoon nap. (We burn more calories when we’re awake than when we’re asleep, obviously.) On the second and third days of the night shift, however, the subjects burned fewer calories than they did at baseline. The difference was only about 50-60 calories per day, so while it’s statistically significant, it’s only about the same amount of calories as a small apple.

One study found that diet-induced thermogenesis (i.e. the calories that you burn as a result of metabolizing food) is 44-50% higher after a morning (8 AM) meal versus an evening (8 PM) meal, regardless of whether you are on a day shift or a night shift.

It’s not as simple as calories in, calories out. When you eat/are awake can affect how much you burn.

Intermittent Fasting is an Emerging Area of Research Showing Promise

While it’s tempting to believe that intermittent fasting (IF) only exists in the world of fitness and dude-bros (Fitness Bros?), it’s an area of research that’s gaining a lot of interest.

The most common definition of IF is that you have certain days of the week where you don’t eat, or undergo a modified fast where you only eat a small amount (most studies provide 500 calories), then eat normally on non-fasting days. Variations of this include alternate day fasting, or the 5:2 Diet (eat five days a week, fast two non-consecutive days a week).

Another version of IF is time-restricted feeding, where you restrict eating to a certain number of hours a day, then fast for the rest of the time. Dr. Peterson is currently conducting two studies where subjects eat three meals within 6 hours per day (8 AM – 2 PM), compared to a more “normal” pattern of eating that stretches over 12 hours per day.

Most of the IF studies available have been done on rodents, but the few human studies available have been promising, showing that IF generally produces similar weight loss to “daily dieting” (i.e. slight calorie restriction every day), but there may be more fat loss and less lean body mass loss in IF. Some studies have also shown improved cholesterol levels and less insulin resistance, but this has been inconsistent.

You Might Not Have to Go as Extreme as Fasting to See Benefit

Another interesting area of study is whether just the timing of our meals can effect weight management. A study of 420 Spanish people trying to lose weight, found that those who had their biggest meal earlier in the day tended to lose more weight than those who had their biggest meal later, despite the subjects reporting similar energy intakes.

Similarly, a study of 93 women that were split into large breakfast/small dinner vs. small breakfast/large dinner groups (lunch for both groups was the same size, and all the women received the same number of total calories per day) found that the group that was given the larger breakfast lost more weight (19 lbs vs 8 lbs), had better cholesterol levels, and lower blood sugar levels after 12 weeks.

What Does This All Mean?

The question of whether when we eat has an effect on our weight and health is relatively new. Most of the studies done so far have been in animal models, and only a few small studies have been performed in humans. Most of the studies that Dr. Peterson cited in her webinar had less than 15 participants.

At this stage in the research, I think we have more questions than we do answers, like,

“If we time our meals according to daylight, does that mean I should eat supper at 10 PM in the summer, and 4 PM in the winter?”

“We know that light exposure can affect sleep; does it affect hunger, metabolism and weight loss?”

“Intermittent fasting might look good in the lab, where food is provided, but what happens when people just do IF on their own? Won’t they just gorge on food on the feeding days?”

Even when I asked Dr. Peterson whether she thinks people should stop eating after a certain time of day, she said it was too early in the research to give a definitive answer – we don’t know whether our circadian rhythms are affected more by cutting off eating after a certain time, or by eating more earlier in the day.

I would say my answer to “Should you stop eating after 7 PM?” hasn’t really changed – it’s true your metabolism does slow down in the evening, but based on what we know, the change in the amount of calories you burn isn’t huge. If you do choose to eat in the evening, what and how much you eat is still going to make the bigger difference. Making sure that you’re eating enough during the day might help decrease the amount that you eat at night.

Would I recommend intermittent fasting to everyone? Not yet – there’s still so much we don’t know. But, if it’s something that resonates with you, and you’d like to give it shot, let’s make it happen.

Should you stop eating after 7 PM? The answer is not as simple as you think!

Are you a night time snacker or an intermittent faster? Do you think learning about this research is going to change the way you eat? Share your insights in the comments below.