Stop Eating After Dinner to Lose Weight

If you thought shutting down the kitchen early in the evening could save your waistline, you were right.

While it may not be earth-shattering, there’s some new evidence to back up the advice registered dietitians have been giving for decades. For many years, dietitians have been urging weight-loss clients to eat dinner earlier and stop snacking a few hours before bed. It seemed like a no-brainer – after all, when was the last time a late-night binge consisted of a salad and carrot sticks? – but recently some researchers from Brigham Young University, US, decided to put the theory to the test.

Jame LeCheminant and colleagues looked at the short-term effect of night eating restriction (NER) on daily kilojoule consumption, weight trends, and even mood associated with this deprivation. They recruited 29 young men and asked them to avoid consuming kilojoules (water was okay) between the hours of 7pm to 6am for two weeks. During these two weeks the participants recorded every bite they consumed, and their weight, mood and level of hunger at breakfast were monitored. There was a one-week break, and then for two more weeks (a control period) the subjects were monitored as they returned to their usual way of life. That’s it. There were no other interventions or exercises to perform.

So what happened? The average weight change was a loss of nearly 0.4kg during the two weeks of nighttime fasting and a gain of approximately 0.6kg during the control period. While mood didn’t seem to be affected during the two weeks of NER, participants in this group reported being much hungrier upon waking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that hunger in the morning is likely to inspire you to consume the most important meal of the day (i.e. breakfast).

What about the kilojoules? When they avoided eating between the hours of 7pm to 6am, participants reduced their daily kilojoule intake by an average of 995 kilojoules. Which helps to explain the weight loss of almost a quarter of a kilogram a week. Interestingly, their intake of fat decreased significantly while protein and carbohydrate decreased at a more conservative rate. Which leads one to believe that the subjects were not eating grilled chicken and broccoli late at night. No, their usual late-night snacks were higher in fat.

This study is encouraging because it supports the advice that runners trying to lose weight need simply to shut down the kitchen (why not go for a walk?) after the dinner plates have been cleared. But if you need more direction when it comes to ways to lock up the pantry, consider the following:


Keep It Simple… Silly

No more making excuses as to why you can’t lose weight. No app/tablet/personal chef? No problem. This study highlights the K.I.S.S. method at its best. The study authors state that “there were no gadgets or record-keeping, and the intervention was simple to understand and implement.” In other words, by simply not eating after a certain time, the participants took in fewer calories and lost weight. Remarkable.


Sorry, We’re Closed

That’s right, even if you have to put up a sign on the kitchen cupboard, fridge, freezer or candy drawer, then by all means, do it. Let it be a reminder to yourself and your support system that for two weeks (hopefully longer) you are going to stop eating after a certain time of day.


Pick a Time

In the study described above, the participants had to shut down the kitchen after 7pm. What’s so magical about this time? By 7pm, the researchers found that most participants had likely already consumed dinner (so there was no need for the study participants to skip meals and totally deprive themselves and their metabolism). You’ll likely agree that once dinner is over, your late-night snack options aren’t always healthy choices. By shutting down the kitchen (at 5pm or 6pm or 7pm or even 8pm) you’ll be more likely to eliminate consumption of late-night empty kilojoules.


Eat Earlier Already!

After setting your “Kitchen Closing” time, determine the set dinnertime that works for you and your family most nights of the week. Sure, every now and again practice or late nights at the office will interfere. But by eating earlier in the evening, you’ll leave time for a brisk walk after dinner and certainly give yourself more time to digest before retiring for the night (and your heart and digestive system will thank you).


Coach Beginner

Related Articles