This Is the Absolute Worst Time of Day to Eat, Research Shows

Eating this late in the day is linked with higher BMI.

Maintaining a healthy weight is not just about what you eat, research shows it's also about when you eat. Several recent studies have shown that eating later in the dayspecifically after 8:00 p.m.—is the absolute worst time of day to eat, leading to weight gain and other adverse health effects. Read on to find out why this is the worst time to chown down, and for weight loss tips that actually work, This One Thing Can Help You Drop 20 Percent of Your Body Weight.

According to results from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, eating late in the day is known to "increase weight, insulin and cholesterol levels, and negatively affect fat metabolism," as well as "hormonal markers implicated in heart disease, diabetes and other health problems."

"We know from our sleep loss studies that when you're sleep deprived, it negatively affects weight and metabolism in part due to late-night eating, but now these early findings, which control for sleep, give a more comprehensive picture of the benefits of eating earlier in the day," said Namni Goel, PhD, a lead author of the study and professor in psychiatry at Penn Medicine's division of Sleep and Chronobiology. "Eating later can promote a negative profile of weight, energy, and hormone markers—such as higher glucose and insulin, which are implicated in diabetes, and cholesterol and triglycerides, which are linked with cardiovascular problems and other health conditions."

Other studies corroborate this finding, adding that routinely eating after 8:00 p.m. or within four hours of sleep is associated with higher BMI. "In multivariate analyses controlling for age, sex, sleep duration, and timing, eating more frequently, later timing of the last meal, and a shorter duration between last meal and sleep onset predicted higher total caloric intake," concludes a 2014 study published in the journal Nutrition Research. Those researchers explain that eating later in the evening likely leads to weight gain "due to a greater number of eating occasions."

These findings could have important implications for the millions of Americans struggling to reach a healthy weight. In addition to eating a balanced diet comprised primarily of whole foods, these studies suggest that time-based interventions could also prove effective in weight management. Read on for more expert-backed weight loss tips, and if you're ready to clean up your diet, If You Eat Out This Often, You're Cutting Years Off Your Life, Study Says.

Wake up and get outside early in the day.

smiling black woman outside in the sun

Sleeping in may sound like a dream, but early risers enjoy some surprising weight loss benefits. That's because getting up and out early in the morning for some naturally-sourced vitamin D is associated with a lower BMI, research published in the journal PLoS One reports. "Light exposure can influence sleep and circadian timing, both of which have been shown to influence weight regulation," the researchers explain. And for more health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Stick to a meal pattern.

A mother, father, and son sit laughing at the dinner table while a grandmother passes them a bowl of salad

Like exercising at the same time every day (which has also been shown to lower BMI), eating on a set schedule can work wonders for your waistline. "When people stick to a meal pattern, they rarely overeat," explains Julie Upton, MS, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health. "Stick to eating three meals a day and two snacks. Don't graze all day and don't skip meals," she advises. And for more easy diet tips, check out The Surprising Thing You Should Drink Instead of Diet Soda, Nutritionist Says.

Drink more water.

Shot of a couple drinking glasses of water together at home

Staying hydrated is healthy for many reasons, but according to a review of research published in 2016 in Frontiers in Nutrition, it's also linked with weight loss and maintenance. According to a 2015 study published in the journal Obesity, subjects who drank two glasses of water before meals lost 2.87 pounds more than those who didn't. So before you reach for your fork, make sure to reach for a few tall glasses of water first.

Walk more often.

A Black family of four walking on a sidewalk while wearing face masks.

Walking may not seem like a fat-burning workout, but if it's a regular part of your routine, it's sure to help you shed the pounds. Research published in 2012 in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found a significant association between commuting by car and increased weight gain, even among those who were physically active in other ways. So, any time you have the opportunity, opt to travel by foot, and reap the health benefits without so much as breaking a sweat. And for more incentive to lace up those sneakers, check out these 25 Amazing Health Benefits of Walking.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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