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One Major Side Effect of Late-Night Snacking, Says a New Study

New research suggests it could hinder your ability to work the next day.
FACT CHECKED BY Joseph Neese
man eating leftover pizza as a late night snack

Not only can late-snacking derail your weight loss goals, but it also may negatively impact your productivity at work.

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people who reported eating unhealthy snacks, particularly late at night, struggled to be a team player at work the following day. For the study, researchers at North Carolina State University asked 97 full-time employees in the U.S. to answer a series of questions three times a day for 10 consecutive days.

Participants answered questions about how they felt physically and emotionally before the workday began and what they accomplished by day's end. Before going to bed, the subjects also recorded what they ate and drank after work. (Related: 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work)

For the purpose of this study, "unhealthy eating" was used to describe moments where subjects felt like they'd overindulged in food or drink, had too much junk food in particular, or had too many late-night snacks. What did the researchers find? Those who participated in unhealthy eating behaviors were more likely to report having physical and emotional issues the following morning.

Common physical complaints included headache, stomachache, and diarrhea. Mentally, participants who engorged the night prior said they felt guilty and or even ashamed about what they had eaten. These individuals also reported changes in their behavior at work, saying they had less inclination to help colleagues go the "extra mile."

Instead, participants who engaged in unhealthy eating behaviors felt more comfortable withdrawing, meaning they avoided work-related situations despite being at the workplace.

"The big takeaway here is that we now know unhealthy eating can have almost immediate effects on workplace performance," Seonghee "Sophia" Cho, the corresponding author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, said in a statement.

"However, we can also say that there is no single 'healthy' diet, and healthy eating isn't just about nutritional content. It may be influenced by an individual's dietary needs, or even by when and how they're eating, instead of what they're eating."

Subjects who were better able to cope with stress didn't suffer from as many adverse side effects from unhealthy eating as those who were a bit more emotionally volatile. Overall, those who overindulged in either food or alcohol (or both) the night before work reported notable changes in how they behaved at work the following day.

For tips on healthier things to eat when that urge to eat in late at night strikes, be sure to check out the 15 Healthy Late Night Snacks for When the Midnight Munchies Hit. And to get the latest news delivered right to your email inbox every day, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter!

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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