Unhealthy eating in the evening could lead to impaired work performance the next day, a study suggests.
Late-night snacking or drinking made people less helpful and more withdrawn in their jobs.
People who are more emotionally stable reported fewer adverse side-effects.
Late-night snacking may impair work performance the next day, research from North Carolina State University suggests.
The small study tracked 97 participants, who were full-time employees in US companies, for 10 consecutive days.
They were asked questions related to their physical and emotional well being before starting work, questioned three times over the course of their work day about how they were feeling, and then questioned again at the conclusion of their work day. Before bed, they were asked about their evening food and drink consumption.
Unhealthy eating – defined as feeling like they’d eaten or drunk too much, or eaten what they deemed to be too many late-night snacks – was found to result in negative physical consequences the next morning including headaches, diarrhoea, and stomach ache.
These behaviours also led to mental or emotional negative effects, such as food guilt, followed by changes in work performance.
Researchers saw a rise in “withdrawal behaviour” (like avoiding interactions) and a decline
in “helpful behaviour” (such as helping a colleague) after unhealthy evening eating.
Participants who were more emotionally balanced reported fewer adverse side effects from unhealthy eating.
“The big takeaway here is that we now know unhealthy eating can have almost immediate
effects on workplace performance,” said Seonghee “Sophia” Cho, corresponding author of
the study and an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University.
She added: “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.