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Early Birds May Be Healthier Than Night Owls

Are you a morning person? If so, you may have an advantage over your night-owl peers when it comes to eating healthy. A new study published in the scientific journal Obesity (put out by The Obesity Society) discovered that “morning people” ate a more well-balanced diet overall and had their first meal earlier in the day (revving metabolism, providing energy, and promoting satiety) than their “evening people” counterparts.

This study unearthed how individuals’ internal time clocks (known as chronotype) affects what foods they eat and when they eat. The early birds instinctively chose more nutritious foods early on and throughout the day. Each of our own internal biological clocks can influence not only our metabolism (previous research has found that people who ate earlier in the day had more success with weight loss and reduced their risk of heart disease and diabetes) but also the kinds of foods we select.

The Study Details

Scientists involved 1,854 participants (both men and women) in the study ranging in age from 25 years old to 74 years old. The researchers assessed the study participants’ diets using 48-hour dietary recalls (this means they did have to rely on participants’ memory and honesty when reporting their intake). The participants’ chronotype was determined using Horne and Östberg's Morningness–Eveningness Survey. Researchers then investigated correlations between participants’ chronotype (morning person or night person) and the total calories they consumed and the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) both in the morning and in the evening as well as for the entire day.

The results? In the morning, night owls took in fewer calories, but more of their calories came from sucrose (sugar) than the early birds. More importantly, in the evening, night owls took in more total calories overall, and more sucrose, fat, and saturated fat than early birds. What is even more interesting is that the study discovered that this trend of taking in more calories in the evening, especially from unhealthy sources, was substantially more pronounced on weekends and night owls (evening chronotypes) ate more times throughout the day and their mealtimes were more irregular than early birds (morning chronotype).

Delayed eating, along with eating more calories overall, and eating more sugar, fat, and saturated fat, puts evening types at a higher risk for obesity and other lifestyle-related diseases.

Tips for Becoming an Early Bird and a Healthy Human

Give Yourself a Curfew — Many people feel fatigued early in the morning because they failed to go to bed at a decent time the previous night. Relive your elementary school days and give yourself a “bedtime” and stick to it.

Unplug — Although we all love to unwind in the evening by watching TV, perusing the internet, or checking all our social media apps on our phones, you would be doing yourself a favor by unplugging at least an hour before bed.

Establish a Relaxing Routine — To help get yourself in the mode for quality sleep, do an activity that helps you relax and calm down. For some, this could be as simple as taking a warm bath. For others, meditation or stretching may help set the nighttime tone. Perhaps listening to music, reading, or sipping hot tea is more your forte? Whatever you choose, try every evening to make that a habit you turn to in order to help you turn in.

Don’t Hit the Snooze Button — Contrary to your instincts, you do not end up getting extra sleep, and may, in fact, make yourself more drowsy, when you hit the snooze button on your alarm. If you hit the snooze button more often than you hit the gym, try setting your alarm clock (or phone) in a separate room so you have to get up to turn it off, thus waking yourself up fully.

Exercise First Thing in the Morning — You may think that exercising as soon as you wake up sounds both torturous and exhausting, this couldn’t be further from the truth (at least the exhausting part). By getting your workout in early, you’re both spurring your metabolism and giving yourself natural, long-lasting energy. You’re also setting yourself up for an entire day of healthy lifestyle decisions.

Start Small — Even if you’re not super hungry first thing in the morning, get your metabolism going by having a light breakfast of fruit and lean protein. Starting off on the right foot will also set you up for making healthier food choices throughout the rest of the day, especially in the evening.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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