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The Best Time to Eat Dinner for Weight Loss

author image Erin Beck
Erin Beck began writing professionally in 2008 as an opinion columnist for the West Virginia University student newspaper, "The Daily Athenaeum." She has worked in health promotion at the university and as a communications intern at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism and a Master of Public Health, both from West Virginia University.
The Best Time to Eat Dinner for Weight Loss
A clock on the wall. Photo Credit Nikita Sobolkov/Hemera/Getty Images

Eating dinner at a certain time of day won't lead to weight loss. Only burning more calories than you consume causes you to lose weight. Eat when you're truly hungry and have dinner at a certain time if it helps you to restrict calories.

Night Eating

Some people believe that eating late at night will cause weight gain because they think your metabolism slows down at night. However, according to Columbia University's Go Ask Alice! medical resource website, your metabolism is always working. The site reminds that calories are the bottom line when it comes to weight loss, and it doesn't matter if you eat at night as long as you watch what you eat. If you're more likely to eat fatty, high-calorie foods late at night, then it might be a good idea for you to have dinner earlier.


Extending the interval between meals may cause you to eat more calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For instance, waiting five hours between meals instead of four adds about 52 calories for someone on a diet of 2,000 calories per day. Don't wait too long after lunch to eat dinner. Consider having a healthy snack between lunch and dinner to keep hunger under control.

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Meal Frequency

Consider eating several small meals a day. Have one meal earlier in the evening, and one meal later. Eating more frequent meals throughout the day can help you control your appetite, according to the Weight-Control Information Network. Eating small meals also may cause your stomach to shrink over time, leading you to feel full sooner, Go Ask Alice! adds.


People often crave rich foods when stressed, "Psychology Today" magazine reported in 2003. Anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness can also trigger overeating, the Mayo Clinic adds. The best time to eat dinner is when you can devote your full attention to the experience and enjoy it. Before you eat, make sure true hunger is driving you, not emotion. If your appetite is a result of poor mood, distract yourself, try stress-management strategies or seek support from others.


Consider your exercise schedule when deciding when to eat dinner. If you exercise after dinner, allow three to four hours for a big meal to digest, and two to three hours for a small meal to digest, Go Ask Alice! urges. Eating before exercise can lead to gastrointestinal problems, particularly in runners, people who are unfit, younger people, women, people with emotional stress and intense exercisers. Eating carbohydrates 15 to 60 minutes after a workout replenishes glycogen stores, and eating protein after a workout helps to repair muscle.

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