Everyone is susceptible to a midnight snack every so often. However, a new study conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University found that eating late into the night might impact consumers in unexpected ways the following day.
According to their findings, consumers who snack late at night could see a dip in their workplace performance. The study showed that late-night eaters are more likely to be distracted the next day and experience more physical symptoms, like headaches and nausea, that impact their ability to perform to their fullest potential.
“For the first time, we have shown that healthy eating immediately affects our workplace behavior and performance,” said researcher Seonghee “Sophia” Cho. “It is relatively well established that other health-related behaviors, such as sleep and exercise, affect our work. But nobody had looked at the short-term effects of unhealthy eating.”
When we’re eating matters
For the study, the researchers had nearly 100 full-time employees answer a questionnaire several times per day for 10 workdays. The questions asked about participants’ overall well-being, their food and drink intake, and what they did at work each day.
The researchers identified a relationship between unhealthy eating and physical and emotional wellness. Those who were eating junk food late at night reported higher levels of guilt and shame, and they were also more likely to experience stomachaches and headaches the next day at work. However, unhealthy eating habits also led participants to behave differently at work; they were less likely to go out of their way to help coworkers and were more likely to avoid workplace tasks after late-night snacking.
Mental health and emotional wellness also played a role in how the participants responded physically to late-night eating. The study found that those who were emotionally stronger were less likely to feel the physical side effects of eating late at night, which also meant that they were performing better at work.
“The big takeaway here is that we now know unhealthy eating can have almost immediate effects on workplace performance,” said Cho. “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.”