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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Will late night snacking cause me to gain weight?

    I usually have dinner around 6pm and do not go to bed until 1 in the morning … thus I snack around midnight. Is this bad? Will it cause me to gain weight?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • John Jones

    Nutritionist

    I am an Accredited Practicing Dietitian with a passion to provide practical solutions to creating a healthy lifestyle.My interest in nutrition was born during his … View Profile

    There are a few things you need to consider with your eating and sleep pattern. Firstly weight gain always results from consuming too many calories/kilojoules compared with what you're body is burning. 

    Eating at night and particularly snacking can make it difficult to keep track of how many calories you've consumed. I have many clients who are amazed to see how many calories they actually consume through snacking. 

    You may also find yourself eating because you're tired and looking for an energy boost and not because you're hungry. This is dangerous. Eating should  be a result of a genuine feeling of hunger, not because you're tired or bored. 

    There is also a number of hormonal changes that can occur from staying up late and getting poor quality sleep. If you are not sleeping well this can increase the level of a stress hormone called cortisol which should drop during the night so I body can get adequate repair and regeneration. 

    There have been many studies which have noted the effect of poor quality sleep and weight gain. You really need to think about your sleeping/eating pattern if you are concerned about weight gain.

  • Nicole Senior

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I'm an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, consultant, author, speaker and food and health enthusiast. I love talking and writing about food and health.(please note, … View Profile

    It's not necessarily bad to have a midnight snack but try to choose nutritious foods and not too much. The time we eat food has very little impact on weight physiologically (its about how much we eat over the whole day), however night eating can bring people undone because of what they choose. Eating mindlessly in front of the TV on snacks you see advertised is a recipe for trouble. I'd suggest a tub of low fat yoghurt, piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or a SMALL bowl of wholegrain cereal and milk. And try having it a 10 or 11pm rather than midnight to give your body a chance to digest it before you sleep.

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    This is a very commonly-believed weight loss myth. But it doesn't really matter when you eat, only how many calories you eat and burn in a day. Whether you're eating in the morning or at midnight, your body turns any extra calories into fat.In fact, eating a light snack – like cheese and crackers – before bed may help you sleep better.

  • Lisa Renn

    Dietitian

    Lisa is an APD with 12 years experience, specialising in helping people identify and change habits that impact negatively on their health. Inspiring change, Lisa … View Profile

    Hi there,
    Just to add a little more advice. As John said poor sleep or not enough sleep messes with your hormones and can affect weight. The other thing that happens when you stay up late is that the longer you are awake after the evening meal the more likely you are to get hungry again- as the other contributers have said night time is a time when you will more likely grab the high fat/ high calorie snacks. So not only are you eating extra calories but also foods higher in calories which can lead to weight gain.
    The other problem with staying up late is that you may miss breakfast and this sets you up for not getting in adequate nutrition for the day and can also lead to weight gain.
    Interestingly, research was presented at the recent International Dietetics Congress by a Japanese researcher who found that eating later in the day and at night your body uses less energy than if you ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the more conventional times.
    If you can get to bed a bit earlier you may find that you don't need the extra snacks.
    All the best.

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