Why You Should Consider Eating an Early Dinner


| LAST UPDATE 06/01/2022

By Lia Thomson
early dinner digestion benefits
@jacquiealexander via Instagram

Summer in Europe may make us wanna get back home and start eating dinner at 10 pm, but don't jump on that bandwagon just yet. Because as it turns out, eating the last meal of the day earlier can have many wellness benefits. Here's why you should be cooking up your supper earlier in the night.

Okay, so maybe some nights it's inevitable to eat a late bite, but a few days here and there of the opposite can be very favorable. Especially for those who are looking to lose or maintain their weight, keep those energy levels up, and support a healthy digestive system! We so often hear that what we put into our body is what matters most, but according to a registered dietitian and founder of the nutrition consulting practice Diet Doctors, LLC, Rachel Swanson, it's also necessary to look at the when of eating.

dinner early food benefits
@matildadjerf via Instagram
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"An 'early dinner' is highly subjective," Swanson said. "This can be considered 5 p.m. for some, whereas others may consider 8 p.m. early. So having some construct around this conversation will be helpful." Essentially an "early dinner" refers to the time roughly 2-3 hours before a person goes to bed - that way, the body has an optimal time to fast before it rests. Because our bodies don't digest when we're in REM, it's important that it has enough time to do so. 

The nutritionist explained, "This recommendation is part of a bigger, and much more sophisticated, biological picture. The benefit of an early dinner has to do with the fact that as the day winds down, the body needs less food for energy and should be entering a fasting state." Heavy meals at night can be harmful - instead, try to get in as much food in the a.m. for better digestion. "Timing food intake around our innate circadian rhythm (our sleep-wake cycles) in this way influences a tremendous amount of physiological processes downstream—including that of metabolic function and even fat loss," Swanson added. The circadian rhythm manages many crucial body systems. "Our circadian system orchestrates metabolism in a 24-hour cycle: we have innate rhythms in our energy expenditure, appetite, insulin sensitivity, and glucose disposal (blood sugar utilization)." So maybe the elderly are on to something, after all... 

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