Ever wonder why you get the midnight munchies? Your brain’s reward center is less receptive to food in the evening, which means that you need more high-calorie junk at night to satisfy a craving, suggests new research from Brigham Young University.
“In the morning, you’re driven to eat because you need energy for your day. At night, your body is shutting down, so it makes sense that food wouldn’t be as rewarding,” says study author and BYU graduate student Travis Masterson.
The problem: When your brain doesn’t get that same “high” from food at night, you end up needing to eat more of it to feel satisfied. And that may be why it’s so insanely easy to polish off an entire pint of ice cream after dinner—and still feel like you’re able to dig into another.
Though this study was conducted on women, Masterson says it’s reasonable to assume that the findings would hold true for guys, too.
But you don’t have to feel powerless to the pull of the refrigerator. Even just seeing the tempting food can trigger a craving and make you want to chow down.
Try this: The study suggests that keeping tempting treats out of sight may make you less likely to over-consume your after-dinner snacks. Don’t keep a cookie jar on your counter, for example—store it inside a cabinet so you can’t see it. Fast-forwarding your way through food commercials on your DVR can also work.
“It’s a strategy to avoid becoming over-stimulated,” Masterson says.