What really happens to your ice cream at 7:01pm…
There’s lots of “information” floating around out there about when you should and shouldn’t eat.
Some people say it doesn’t matter when you eat. Some people say you shouldn’t eat after Xpm.
Join me for some nuance!
Welcome back to the Bite Me Nutrition podcast. I haven't done a solo waffle for a little while, so I thought I'd do one today. Talking about eating at nighttime, it's a bit of a contentious topic. It's something I get lots of questions about both in consults and on social media because there's a lot of information. Well, it's a bit generous. There's a lot of people telling you things about that out there. And there's probably two main camps. There's the don't eat anything or don't eat a certain food after a certain time. It's usually six or 07:00 P.m. For some reason. And then there's Camp Two, which is it doesn't matter when you eat right? And the reality is they're kind of both wrong. Like so many things in my industry, simple is good, but not when you sacrifice accuracy to be simple. And that's kind of what's happening, I think, with both of these camps. They're too black and white. They don't provide anywhere near enough nuance. And so hopefully in the next, I don't know, five, eight minutes, I will be able to provide some of that nuance and explain to you what each camp is kind of getting right and then also what they're getting wrong. So then you can apply that to your evening and be a bit more confident about your food choices at that time. So this is kind of just for someone with a, quote, unquote, normal eating. If you're a shift worker, I strongly encourage you to listen to the podcast. It'll be coming out next week, which is specifically about that topic, and then exercise can change some of the things I'm about to say. So I'll make sure at the end of the podcast I will touch on that and I will just quickly write that down so I actually remember to touch on it or I won't. So, Camp One, don't eat anything or don't eat a certain food after a certain time, right? Basically, this is just not true. You can eat any food at any time. Potato 100 calories of potato at 07:00 A.m. Is still 100 calories of potato at 07:00 P.m.. The way that your body digests and absorbs and metabolizes certain foods does change a little bit, but I'll touch on that in a second. But if we're zoomed right in on, can I eat this food at this time? The answer is always yes. There's no time. Like your body doesn't shut down if you eat a carbohydrate after a certain cut off. Okay, from a weight management perspective, so specifically, this seems to come up in terms of fat loss. It can work for fat loss, but it's not because it's breaking any biochemical rules. It's because it's a simple rule that's easy to follow. And it's also because you're pretty unlikely to eat a whole pint of ice cream at 09:00 A.m., but you're probably far more likely to eat a whole pint of ice cream at 09:00 P.m.. So if you have this black and white arbitrary rule in your head of like, I'm not allowed to eat carbs after 08:00 P.m., ice cream is not a carb, but it contains carbs. So you're banned from doing that. That's probably just going to naturally limit your intake of those foods. Now, whether that's a good approach for you, I can't really comment on that. But that's why you might find people who have these arbitrary cutoffs do see resulting fat loss. Again, it's not because your body deals with ice cream that much differently at 08:00 A.m. Versus 08:00 P.m., it's just that you probably are just overall eating less ice cream. The other reason why this camp is not super silly is because it is a good idea not to eat all of your food in the evening. Right? And we'll talk about that in a second. So it's ideal to have more of your food during the day and less of your food during the evening. But I get a lot of people who get stressed about, well, they can't get to eating dinner till eight or 09:00 at night just for whatever reason. And because that's past their arbitrary cut off, they're worried that it's going to affect things. And the reality is, if you've eaten normally throughout the day and then you're finishing your day with your dinner and your dinner happens to be later in the evening, you're going to be fine. I do not want you to skip dinner because it's been too late. Please eat the dinner. Pardon me. The two scenarios you want to be mindful of are some people find eating really close to bed can affect their ability to get to sleep, if that's you try not to do that. And other people who are struggling with reflux, eating close to lying down in bed can absolutely trigger that reflux or exacerbate it. So be mindful of that. But if that's not you, if you can't eat your dinner till 830 and then you want to go to bed at nine, it's totally fine. You're not going to gain more fat or lose muscle or combust or whatever the other, I don't know, whatever the other things you've been told. So it is okay to eat dinner or any food later. But like I said, straying into Camp Two, it's also a good idea to not have all of your food in the evening. So when I say it doesn't matter, camp Two being it doesn't matter when you eat, that's also not entirely true either because your body is better at handling particularly carbohydrate rich foods during the day. We're a little bit more what's called insulin sensitive during daylight hours just because of our evolution and circadian rhythms and whatnot. And so this whole kind of world of chrono nutrition, chrono time nutrition food is sort of finding that if we can eat more of our calories during the day and a better way to think of that is more food during the day, less food in the evening. Our body tends to metabolically handle that a little bit better and we see better blood sugar control, we see better cholesterol levels, just all of these sorts of metabolic markers of health. And so that is not dinner, that is not dessert. What we're more talking about is when you're skipping breakfast or you're having a boiled egg, you're having a tuna salad for lunch, and then from like 05:00 onwards, well into the evening, you're eating a massive dinner, a second serve of dinner, you're having snacking before and after dinner, you're having a giant dessert. You may be going back and having, like you're really kind of backloading your calories. So you're having a very small amount of your available or daily food intake is during the day and a large amount of it is in the evening. Now, I don't want anyone to feel guilty or bad if that is you. It's a really common pattern that people can fall into, but ideally, we want to be adjusting that because eating huge amounts of food every evening, like I said, is not fantastic. The best way to do that is to actually at a proper breakfast, actually eat a proper lunch and actually eat a proper afternoon tea. But I think I've talked about that in another podcast, so not going to talk about that. So basically, your body is a little less insulin sensitive in the evening. So giant amounts of food, particularly giant amounts of carbohydrate, every night, probably not a great idea. Again, we're talking about habits and patterns over time. Finally, I think that's everything I wanted to say exercise. Exercise does, in the short term, make you more insulin sensitive. So if you have done a very hard session, and I'm talking more to like, athletic populations here, to be perfectly honest, if you're just like me and you just go to the gym for an hour, even if you're training hard, probably just continue to eat normally. But if you are quite active, you've done a hard session, and importantly, you've got a hard session kind of early the next day or mid morning the next day. Forget about the whole don't eat a ton of carbohydrates, you might need to load up on those carbohydrates post training to help you refuel. And your body will be far more insulin sensitive, even though it's nighttime, because you've just trained. So you break that rule a little bit. I hope that's all made sense. I hope I haven't scared anyone into not having carbohydrates at dinner. That's absolutely not the case. I hope I haven't encouraged anyone to or made anyone think you need to exercise to earn your carbohydrates at dinner. That's absolutely not the case. I hope I have made you look at your food distribution across the day. And if you're having 30% of it between waking and 05:00 P.m. And 70% of it after 05:00 p.m.. I hope that's made you go. Maybe I should try and address that. But I also hope that I've made you feel okay to eat ice cream at. If I have, please take a photo of the not of you eating well, actually, you can take a photo of you eating ice cream and tag me. That'd be sweet. No pun intended. But also if you could take a photo of you the screenshot of this podcast, put it up in your stories. That's probably the main way that gets the podcast out there, which is nice. I'm very vain and the more downloads I get, the more self worth I have. So if you could assist with that, that would be great. Thanks, bye
Episode Links & References
- Effect of meal timing and glycaemic index on glucose control and insulin secretion in healthy volunteers
- Meal distribution across the day and its relationship with body composition
- Effect of meal timing on postprandial glucose responses to a low glycemic index meal: A crossover trial in healthy volunteers