Many people work out of the home until early evening or even later. Dinnertime is often affected because they must still commute home, run errands, and prepare food before finally sitting down to eat. As a result, dinnertime can be pushed to 7 pm, or even later.
Some research suggests that eating dinner earlier, around 5 pm, has a range of health benefits. Prepping meals early or adjusting your schedule where possible could have some positive impacts on your health.
While eating the last meal of the day earlier in the evening may be beneficial, some people need to take care when making changes to their eating schedule. People with a history of eating disorders or with advanced diabetes should not limit their eating hours without the supervision of a physician.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women also should not limit calories or food consumption to certain times of the day. Before altering your diet, discuss your reasons with your physician to determine any concerns or considerations you need to keep in mind.
When you eat dinner earlier, you do not go to bed with a full stomach. Finishing your food three or four hours before sleep means the digestive system does most of its work while you are still awake, meaning it can relax overnight along with the rest of your body, which can also reduce oversleeping.
Eating earlier can help reduce the risk factors for poor sleep and nighttime interruptions.
Eating dinner earlier in the day increases the body's downtime between that meal and breakfast the next day. Lengthening this period could help control illnesses such as diabetes because as people fast, insulin sensitivity naturally rises while insulin levels decrease, managing blood sugar levels.
Some people with diabetes can even reduce their reliance on medication by modifying their diets. However, anyone with a health condition should always consult their doctor before making changes such as eating earlier.
A 2019 study suggested that people who have had a heart attack who eat dinner within two hours of bedtime and skip breakfast face a much higher risk of death, another heart attack, or angina within 30 days of being released from the hopital.
Doctors suspect that this is due to the inflammatory response and oxidative stress. Eating often involves consuming salts, carbs, and other foods that can raise blood pressure. When sleeping, the blood pressure naturally decreases. By eating too close to bedtime before the body has a chance to digest the food and reduce blood pressure, the pressure remains high overnight, which can increase the risk of a heart attack.
Studies suggest that people who eat within three hours of going to sleep have an increased chance of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms, causing heartburn, acid reflux and other uncomfortable symptoms that can interrupt sleep.
By moving your last meal of the day to more than four hours before bedtime, the risk of unsavory symptoms can be decreased.
Inflammation is related to numerous conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Eating earlier may offer anti-inflammatory effects by reducing the number of cytokines, the inflammation-causing proteins in the bloodstream.
As cytokines decline during the fast overnight between early dinner and the next morning's first meal, so does the prevalence of inflammation.
While foregoing a late-night snack might sound unappealing, people who eat dinner earlier often report increased feelings of fullness and a reduced desire to snack in the evening.
As long as dinner is balanced and high enough in calories, shifting to an earlier eating time should not cause any additional hunger or discomfort for most people, and has been associated with increases in peptide YY, the satiety hormone.
There is a lot of controversy around intermittent fasting as a fat loss method, but some science supports it. By eating earlier in the evening, you lengthen the time your body fasts (until breakfast), which can encourage the body to use stored fat for energy rather than glucose (carbohydrates). According to a study, eating earlier in the evening is associated with weight loss and changes in plasma cardiometabolic risk.
It is important to remember that intermittent fasting is not meant to reduce caloric intake, just keep that intake to a smaller portion of the day. Eating fewer calories than you burn is the only way to reduce fat, so prioritizing nutritious foods is still essential if fat loss is the goal.
Over 15% of the workforce is on a shift work schedule. These people may still be able to take advantage of an earlier dinner despite being awake during the nighttime hours most people naturally fast. In fact, a study on firefighters working 24-hour shifts who ate with a restricted eating window revealed that participants saw reductions in diastolic blood pressure, which can improve cardiometabolic health.
Eating early and not eating in the evening and overnight hours, even when awake and working, is still associated with a reduction in appetite during these windows, along with increases in physical performance, as long as sufficient calories are being consumed.
Ultimately, this collection of science suggests the best time for dinner is as early as you can handle it, with 6 pm being the latest to reap the benefits. The earlier in the day you can push your final meal, the better this form of simple intermittent fasting works. Remember to pay attention to how you feel if you make this dietary change; if you feel faint or starving, you should adjust your eating schedule.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.