First Of All, Not Everyone Should Restrict Eating Times
While eating dinner earlier can be beneficial, caution is necessary for individuals with eating disorders or diabetes. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not restrict food intake based on time. Before making any dietary alterations, it is advisable to consult with a physician to address any concerns or considerations specific to your situation.
Eating dinner earlier allows your body to digest food before bedtime. By finishing your meal three or four hours before sleep, your digestive system can rest along with the rest of your body overnight, potentially reducing oversleeping. This can help minimize risk factors for poor sleep and interruptions during the night.
Better Blood Sugar Levels
Eating dinner earlier extends the fasting period between meals and can benefit health conditions like diabetes. This extended period of fasting enhances insulin sensitivity and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Some individuals with diabetes may even reduce their medication reliance through dietary modifications. However, it is important for anyone with a health condition to consult their doctor before implementing changes, such as shifting mealtime earlier.
Reduced Risk of Recurrent Heart Attack
Eating dinner close to bedtime and skipping breakfast after a heart attack increases the risk of adverse outcomes, including death, within 30 days of hospital discharge. This is attributed to inflammation and oxidative stress. Late-night eating often includes foods that raise blood pressure due to their salt and carbohydrate content. When the body doesn’t have enough time to digest the food before sleep, blood pressure remains elevated, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Reduces Indigestion and GERD Symptoms
Eating a meal within three hours of bedtime has been linked to a higher risk of experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms, such as heartburn and acid reflux, which can disrupt sleep. To reduce the likelihood of these uncomfortable symptoms, having your last meal at least four hours before going to bed is recommended.
Eating earlier in the day may have anti-inflammatory benefits by reducing the presence of cytokines, which are proteins that contribute to inflammation in the body. By allowing for a longer overnight fast between an early dinner and the next morning’s meal, the levels of cytokines and inflammation can decrease. This reduction in inflammation may be beneficial for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
Fewer Snack Cravings
Eating dinner earlier can lead to a greater sense of fullness and decreased evening snacking. When dinner is well-balanced and provides enough calories, shifting to an earlier eating time typically does not result in additional hunger or discomfort for most individuals. In fact, research suggests that it may increase the levels of peptide YY, a hormone that promotes feelings of satiety.
Possible Fat Loss Benefits
Intermittent fasting is controversial for fat loss, but evidence supports it. Eating dinner earlier extends the fasting period, promoting fat utilization. Studies link early dinner to weight loss and better cardiometabolic health. Intermittent fasting condenses calories into a smaller window, not reducing overall intake. To reduce fat, consume fewer calories than you burn, and prioritize nutritious foods.
Eating Early and Shift Work
Around 15% of workers follow shift schedules, but they can still benefit from eating earlier. A study on firefighters with restricted eating windows during 24-hour shifts showed improvements in cardiometabolic health. Even when awake at night, eating early and avoiding food in the evening and overnight hours can reduce appetite and enhance physical performance as long as enough calories are consumed.
The Best Time for Dinner
Based on scientific evidence, it is recommended to have dinner as early as possible, preferably by 6 pm, to maximize the benefits. The effectiveness of intermittent fasting improves when you can extend the fasting period earlier in the day. However, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your eating schedule if you feel faint or excessively hungry as a result of this dietary change.