Why Skipping Dinner For Weight Loss Is A Bad Idea

Written by Liza Brunell

Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy, Nutrition          Hi there, my name is Liza, I am a Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist from Brisbane, Queensland. And I’m here to show you how easy good nutrition and healthy living can be.

October 6, 2021

Are you someone that gets tired of trying to decide what to have for dinner each night?  I grew up in an era where it was instilled in us that we have 3 meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner was always the biggest meal and almost always consisted of a portion of protein with vegetables.  Over the years, this paradigm has changed as now that we have more demands on our time, we are working longer hours and trying to fit in extra curricula activities for both ourselves and our children.  For some the thought of finishing up a long day by having to whip up dinner for the family can be completely overwhelming and some may think un-necessary opting instead to graze or snack throughout the afternoon/evening.

Which brings forth the question: Is skipping dinner good or bad?

I guess there are a few things to factor in here, if you are skipping dinner for convenience and it is causing you less stress and you aren’t just eating rubbish food from the time you get home then perhaps it isn’t a bad thing however, if you are gaining weight, not drinking enough water, and having difficulty sleeping you may want to rethink this choice.

There are a few reasons why skipping dinner can be either good or bad, particularly when it comes to weight loss. Let’s take a closer look.

This topic has been interesting as I have found research that gives us some conflicting information.  The first thing I have found is that skipping dinner may cause weight gain.

I mentioned earlier that rather than cooking dinner every night some people choose to graze throughout the afternoon and evening, choosing snack-like foods.  From our clinical experience people who skip dinner tend to choose poorer nutritional options that are generally low in fibre and protein and high in carbohydrates and sugar.  Due to the higher carbohydrate and sugar content, it takes longer for these foods to fill you up which may lead to over-eating.  Guess what? This eating pattern inevitably leads to slowing your metabolism and eventually weight gain.

Multiple researchers at Osaka University observed health records from 17,573 male and 8,860 female students (age 18 and older) over the course of three years and found that study participants who regularly skipped dinner were likely to gain weight or be overweight.

Skipping dinner in favour of snacking in the evening could also lead to significant nutritional deficiencies particularly if this becomes a long-term habit.  Nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins and Vitamin D are required for proper bodily function. Not enough protein impacts our ability to gain muscle and may also impact sleep.   Without the right nutrition our bodies become overly stressed both mentally and physically leading to long-term health repercussions.  The slowing down of metabolism also impacts the muscle gaining abilities of the body. While we sleep, the body goes into repair and restoration mode, and this includes building muscle mass, converting protein to muscle, and repairing damaged tissues. Hence, if the body is deprived of enough nutrients and proteins to repair and restore, then there is a risk of losing muscle mass, the less muscle we have the harder it is to burn fat.

In opposition to the above, some sources indicate that skipping dinner does help weight loss.

A 2017 study of approx 50,000 people in the September 2017 issue of ​The Journal of Nutrition​ found that the study group who ate less than three meals a day and took the longest overnight break between meals lowered their BMI significantly over the course of a year.  In the same study, those who’s breakfast or lunch was their largest meal of the day lowered their BMI more than those who consumed their largest meal at dinner.

New research, funded by a TOS Early Career Research Grant awarded in 2014, suggests that eating a very early dinner, or even skipping dinner, may have some benefits for losing weight.

You may have been told previously not to eat too late at night, did you ever consider why?  This is due primarily to the impact that eating late at night has on glucose and insulin levels, also by triggering the digestive process we cause a surge of glucose in the blood stream leading to blood sugar imbalance.  You may also have heard of the term rest and digest, if we are continually putting food in our mouths our digestive system is in constant overdrive.  This puts a huge amount of stress on our bodies, as our body uses all its energy digesting food.  We need this rest time or sleep at night to enable our bodies to rebuild and repair.  Additionally, by skipping dinner for weight loss instead of an alternate meal, this type of fasting’ mimics traditional eating patterns of humans, some consider that eating in line with circadian rhythms in this way to be beneficial when it comes to weight management.

So, if skipping dinner helps you to lose weight what is the best way to incorporate it into daily life?

If we take a look at the success many experience when it comes to intermittent fasting for weight loss there may be a way to incorporate skipping dinner into your routine that is if you can forego a snack fest every evening.  You will also have to work out a time that works in best for you, let’s say you finish eating at 5pm and only drink water until breakfast the next day may be a good start, then adapt to a routine that serves you best.

I feel that skipping dinner may be much harder for some due to previous conditioning around food and eating 3 meals a day, however, it may be more impactful than skipping other meals due to the amount of energy not being consumed which is generally more than that of breakfast or lunch.  Again, it will be up to the individual and their lifestyle however, here are a few key things to consider if you are looking to skip meals to lose weight.

  • If you are eating balanced meals and are incorporating a healthy distance between each meal as well as before sleep, will you potentially lose weight and improve your metabolism anyway?
  • When you skip meals blood sugar levels drop which may impact thought process, memory as well as energy.
  • Those sitting down to a meal at dinner typically consume a healthier, more balanced meal and are less likely to be looking for a late-night snack.

A little food for thought, as there is no right or wrong only working with a plan that is individual to you and your circumstances.

Liza Brunell

Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy, Nutrition

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