Eating late makes you fat?

Many people postpone their main warm meal in the evening. This can be a problem, but it doesn't have to be

Before work, we had a quick cereal for breakfast, had a roll at the desk for lunch and in the afternoon there was only time for a cup of coffee. Anyone who is on the go all day can look forward to a warm meal in the evening. But many people have a bad conscience when they have a sumptuous meal after work. Because it is not only considered fattening, but a full stomach should also impair sleep.

"Larks" have an extensive breakfast, "owls" prefer to eat late

However, eating late has its bad reputation generally wrongly, says Professor Susanne Klaus, who researches the physiology of energy metabolism at the German Institute for Nutritional Research in Potsdam. So far, no study has been able to prove that late eaters live less healthily. "Of course, we each have our own biorhythm to which our digestion is tuned. And since we are usually active during the day, many processes are muted at night," explains the expert. Because of this, the body sometimes fails to digest large amounts of food by morning and you still feel full.

Then it doesn't hurt to behave like a southerner: For breakfast there is only a coffee or a little something. Many people in this country get along well with this. "The chronotypes also determine our eating behavior," says Klaus. "The larks who are already fit in the morning like a big breakfast, owls prefer to postpone their meals. This is a personal matter that everyone has to find out for themselves in principle."

An emperor in the morning, a king at noon, a beggar in the evening?

So what is the truth of our grandparents' advice: "You should eat like an emperor in the morning, like a king at noon and like a beggar in the evening?" The saying comes from times when people worked hard, especially physically. "Back then it made sense: Anyone who went out into the field in the morning needed a good foundation," says Klaus. Generally speaking, if you have to do a lot early on, you shouldn't go without breakfast. This is especially true for schoolchildren - they don't learn well with a growling stomach.

Today's office workers don't have to stick to this old rule. "I also do it myself in such a way that I leave the house without breakfast and only eat cereal in the office around nine o'clock," she says. Later, like many working people, she usually doesn't have the time for a full lunch. "But around 1 p.m. I take a short break. Only then do I eat something again and try to do it consciously."

Beware of high-calorie snacks during the day

This is very important. Because if the main meal is postponed to the evening, there is potentially a calorie trap lurking in the many snacks that some eat throughout the day. If you eat a lot of little things in between and during work, you never feel really full. "And then in the evening comes the great languor that leads to overeating," warns the expert. She therefore advises structuring the day with meals and consciously concentrating on the food. Even if there is only one sandwich for lunch, you perceive it as an independent meal - which is often the case with butter, cheese or sausage in terms of energy content.

To maintain the weight, the total calorie balance of the day counts. If there were only light meals during the day, nothing speaks against a generous dinner. Whether carbohydrates or protein-rich foods should end up on the plate - Susanne Klaus does not want to make a recommendation. "It is often said that the release of insulin after carbohydrates is particularly beneficial for fat storage at night, but that has not been proven. And some people just feel better eating a plate of pasta than a large portion of meat." But if you have already consumed plenty of calories during the day, you should prepare something light in the evening to keep the energy balance in balance.

Don't eat right before bed?

How many hours should lie between eating and sleeping is up to you, according to Klaus. It is true that every meal stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and thus the adrenaline rush, which in principle wakes you up - but some people feel nothing at all. "Ultimately, it's a matter of getting used to," says Klaus. "Our digestive system and even the intestinal bacteria adapt to our daily rhythm after a while. For some people it just takes longer than for others."

Recent studies suggest that taking longer daily meal breaks may help you lose weight. For example, you only eat food within an eight hour interval. This is followed by a fasting phase of 16 hours. It is often put on at night for practical reasons. If you want to stick to this form of intermittent fasting and eat late for dinner, you can of course only eat later the next day.

Conclusion: If you eat your main meal in the evening, you don't necessarily get fat. It depends on the total amount of energy that you consume. Means: More is allowed in the evening if the meals in the morning and at noon are not too generous. If you have a plentiful breakfast and also eat it during the day, you should eat something light in the evening.

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