Hello, Health

Four simple reasons why you must time your dinner right

Some facts about the last meal of the day that I believe stand, mostly because they're logical.

 |  Hello, Health  |  4-minute read |   18-06-2015
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There are so many different schools of thought about wrong timing versus right timing of eating food/meals that it's easy for our mind to get muddled up. I don't want to get into detailed scientific nitty-gritty here and confuse you further, so I will just cull out and give you the facts that I believe stand, mostly because they are logical (Trust me when everything else sounds baffling - just go by what "you" feel sounds rational - and you'll never go wrong).

The popular advice going round is that dinner should definitely be over by 7pm. Well, it's both right and wrong. It's right because it makes good sense to finish your last meal at least several hours (about three hours seems to be the consensus) before you go to sleep. Ideally one would think that an average person will go to bed at 10pm, so that's how I suppose it has been calculated. But being a stickler for time (7pm) is not the crucial point here, as some people go to sleep by 11pm, some by 12am, some even earlier by 9pm (yes, many do) so one can adjust/stretch the time for dinner accordingly and nothing will go wrong… What is more important is to understand the reason behind this.

First reason is the simple fact that those who eat later tend to eat more (calories). Why? Usually because one has stretched hunger by then, so portion control goes out of the window. As it is we eat lopsided in India: dinner is our heaviest meal whereas it should be lightest, and we also habitually tend to eat late. Double whammy there!

o_053015084743.jpg In India, dinner is the heaviest meal of the day! 

Second, a heavy meal just before sleeping can lead to indigestion and thus interfere with our sleep leading to not just a sluggish morning the next day but terrible acid reflux (which shows up as heartburn) through the night too. When we go to bed without giving enough time to the body to digest our big meal and sleep on the side or even on our back (that's practically most of us) then our digestive juices slide into the oesophagus and cause heart burn, which (let me scare you further) if left unchecked might lead to bloating, nausea and may even lead to asthma.

corbis_rm_photo_of_h_053015084804.jpg Untimely dinner may cause heartburn. 

Speaking about bad night's sleep, if this happens in continuum it can lead to skewed triglyceride (a type of fat found in your blood) numbers, which can have a direct bearing on our heart's health. And studies have shown that late night noshing also increases triglyceride levels as our body converts the calories it doesn't use right away into triglycerides. So inadequate sleep and a late meal are like two devils together actually!

beauty-sleep_053015084856.jpg Good dinner + good sleep = Good health. 

An interesting finding to mention here is that two studies published (in the journal Obesity and the International Journal of Obesity) in 2013 have reported that even if the total number of calories eaten remain the same, those who eat more during the first half of the day lose more weight (and pile on less fat) as compared to those who consumed more calories later in the day. Could be because our bodies circadian rhythm works in a way that it metabolises food better during the morning hours, and ratri (night) is the period when it needs to rest, relax and heal. Which why it makes no sense to divert the energy to the digestive system and interfere with that process towards the end of the day. Big bonus this one - losing weight! Surely motivation enough to begin looking at what time you wrap up the last meal of the day!

wieght-loss1_053015084944.jpg Weight loss is quite a motivating factor to have dinner at a proper time.

But that said if you do get late on days, don't skip the dinner, just cut it to size and eat a light, easy to digest meal. Scoring enough essential nutrients is definitely more important than following "right time" or any other food rule. What you could do definitely is to go for a walk after dinner to help ease the process of digestion.


Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).

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