Eating too late can cause weight gain. This was shown by a study conducted by researchers from several American universities and published at the beginning of October in the journal Cell metabolism. While nutritionists and dietitians already recommended separating meals and bedtime by several hours, this study observed exactly what happens in our bodies when we eat too late.
Eat six or two hours before going to sleep
Sixteen participants took part in the experiment over six days. Half of them ate at 6.40 before going to bed, and the others at 2.30 before. In addition to noting their feelings of hunger at different times of the day, the participants were given blood tests to measure their levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which cause satiety or hunger. . Finally, the researchers observed the amount of calories burned by their body.
Twice as likely to be hungry
Contrary to popular belief, “people who ate late were twice as likely to be hungry” the next day, the study concluded. The researchers found a higher amount of hunger hormones in the blood of participants who had eaten late the previous day, and they also reported being hungrier than those who had eaten early when the meals were the same. In detail, levels of leptin (which causes satiety) were 6% lower the day after a late meal, while levels of ghrelin (which makes you feel hungry) were 16% higher.
And in addition to being hungrier, people who ate dinner shortly before bed burned about 5% fewer calories the next day than those who ate dinner early. Eating late can therefore lead to a vicious cycle that makes us eat more and store more fat.
Our metabolism slows down at night
As an explanation for these multiple differences, the study suggests that they are due to the circadian rhythm. “The circadian rhythm is day and night: our metabolism is more dynamic during the day, with light, and slows down at night, with a recovery around 05:00”, suggests dietician Florence Foucaut.
It is clear that if we eat shortly before going to bed, most of our digestion takes place while our metabolism slows down, disrupting our function. Florence Foucaut is critical of the fact that the study was conducted on only 16 participants, but believes that these results correspond to what is often observed in people who work shifted hours, who are more prone to obesity.
Although weight gain also largely depends on the composition of meals and physical activity, she believes that eating late and rich can affect sleep, making you wake up more tired and we tend to snack more.