Ask any fitness enthusiast about the right time for the last meal of the day, and they will list down all the health benefits of an early dinner. They are not wrong, as eating a late dinner is associated with weight gain and high blood sugar levels, 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 PM.
Should you stop eating after 7 PM?
The timing of your last meal is just one aspect of your overall diet. The quality of your meals and snacks throughout the day matters as well. There’s actually no universal rule that dictates a specific cut-off time for eating, says Deepika Vasudevan, a Bengaluru-based sports and performance nutritionist. Whether it’s healthy to stop eating after 7 PM depends on many factors, including your lifestyle, dietary preferences and health goals. So, all you have to do is listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. If you are genuinely hungry after 7 PM, it is better to have dinner later. If you are someone who stays awake late into the night, having an early dinner might indeed lead to hunger later on. It’s essential to strike a balance that suits your lifestyle and preferences. If you’re prone to late-night hunger, you could consider having a small, balanced snack to prevent excessive hunger and potential overeating.
Health benefits of early dinner
Some suggest that eating earlier may have benefits for weight management, but there isn’t strong evidence to conclusively prove significant weight loss solely based on the timing of meals. But there are some benefits of eating early:
1. Circadian rhythm alignment
Our bodies are wired to follow a circadian rhythm, which governs various bodily functions. Eating in sync with this rhythm may optimise digestion and metabolism, give rest to the digestive tract, allow the liver to rest and detox without over stressing it. This rest period also contributes to a healthier gut microbiome and improved digestion, says the expert.
2. Blood sugar control
Early dinner helps to enhance insulin sensitivity, which means your body’s cells become more responsive to insulin. This can help to regulate blood sugar levels more effectively and reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. Also, it can lead to reduced and more controlled insulin spikes after meals. This can prevent rapid and excessive fluctuations in blood sugar levels, supporting better overall glycemic control.
3. Improved sleep quality
Eating too close to bedtime can lead to disrupted sleep due to discomfort or indigestion. An early dinner allows your body to settle into a state of restfulness during the night, promoting better sleep quality, the expert tells Health Shots.
4. Heart health
Eating later in the evening, especially high-calorie and unhealthy foods, may negatively impact heart health. An early dinner, on the other hand, may contribute to better heart health by reducing the consumption of heavy, 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 minimum of two hours gap before bed time. You can also go for 20 minutes slow walk post-dinner to help you with better digestion.
But if you eat right before bedtime, it can lead to digestive discomfort, including indigestion, acid reflux and bloating. When you lie down after eating, gravity isn’t helping to move food through your digestive system, which can lead to these issues. Also, it can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, particularly if the meal is high in carbohydrates. These spikes can disrupt your body’s natural overnight blood sugar regulation.