Ask any fitness enthusiast when is the right time for the last meal of the day and they’ll list all the health benefits of an early dinner. They’re not wrong, because eating a late dinner is associated with weight gain and high blood sugar, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Read on to find out what an expert has to say about not eating after 7 p.m.
Should we stop eating after 7 p.m.?
The timing of your last meal is just one aspect of your overall diet. The quality of your meals and snacks throughout the day also matters. There is actually no universal rule dictating a specific cut-off time for eating, says Bangalore-based sports and performance nutritionist Deepika Vasudevan. Whether it’s healthy to stop eating after 7 p.m. depends on many factors, including your lifestyle, food preferences, and health goals. So all you have to do is listen to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness. If you are really hungry after 7 p.m., it is better to have dinner later. If you stay up late at night, eating dinner early could indeed lead to hunger later. Finding a balance that fits your lifestyle and preferences is key. If you are prone to hunger late at night, you might consider having a small, balanced snack to prevent excessive hunger and possible overeating.
Health benefits of an early dinner
Some suggest that eating earlier may have beneficial effects on weight management, but there is no strong evidence conclusively proving significant weight loss based on meal timing alone. But there are some benefits of eating early:
1. Circadian Rhythm Alignment
Our body is programmed to follow a circadian rhythm that governs various bodily functions. Eating in sync with this rhythm can optimize digestion and metabolism, give rest to the digestive tract, allow the liver to rest and detox without stressing it too much. This period of rest also contributes to a healthier gut microbiome and better digestion, says the expert.
2. Blood sugar control
Eating an early dinner helps improve insulin sensitivity, which means your body’s cells become more sensitive to insulin. This can help regulate blood sugar more effectively and reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it can lead to reduced and better controlled insulin spikes after meals. This can prevent rapid and excessive fluctuations in blood sugar levels, thereby promoting better overall glycemic control.
3. Improved sleep quality
Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep due to discomfort or indigestion. Eating dinner early allows your body to settle into a restful state overnight, promoting better quality sleep, the expert tells Health Shots.
4. Heart health
Eating later in the evening, especially high-calorie and unhealthy foods, can negatively impact heart health. On the other hand, eating an early dinner may contribute to better heart health by reducing the consumption of heavy and fatty foods before sleep.
5. Hormonal Harmony
Our hormones, including insulin and cortisol, follow a daily rhythm. Eating earlier aligns with the body’s natural hormonal patterns, potentially supporting healthier metabolism and hormone regulation.
Vasudevan says there should be a gap of at least two hours before bedtime. You can also do 20 minutes of slow walking after dinner to help you digest better.
But if you eat right before bed, it can lead to digestive upset, including indigestion, acid reflux, and bloating. When you lie down after eating, gravity doesn’t help move food through your digestive system, which can lead to these problems. Also, it can lead to blood sugar spikes, especially if the meal is high in carbohydrates. These spikes can disrupt your body’s natural blood sugar regulation at night.