Late-night snacks may negatively impact your work performance

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  • Researchers looked at how unhealthy eating habits can impact productivity
  • People who had late-night snacks were more likely to feel physically and emotionally down the next day
  • The researchers also found that people able to cope with stress were less likely to experience physical and emotional strains from unhealthy eating

New research shows that workers with unhealthy eating habits in the evening suffered from emotional strains like guilt, as well as physical complaints like stomachache and diarrhoea the next day.

The study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology focused on investigating the impact of unhealthy eating habits  at home and behavioural outcomes at work.

Collecting data from employees

The researchers enrolled 97 full-time employed people. Participants were required to complete questionnaires three times a day for two weeks.

Before going to work, participants answered questions related to their physical and emotional wellbeing. At the end of each workday, they answered questions about how they fared at work. In the evening, before going to bed, they answered questions about their eating and drinking behaviours after work.

Researchers defined unhealthy eating as: eating too much junk food; having too much to eat or drink; or eating too many late-night snacks.

Unhealthy habits make people unproductive

The findings of the study show that people who had a late-night snack or ate unhealthy food were more likely to feel ill the next day with health problems like headaches, stomachaches and diarrhoea.

Furthermore, those who reported unhealthy eating were more likely to report experiencing emotional strain the next morning. This includes feelings of guilt and shame because of their poor food choices. The physical and emotional strains associated with unhealthy eating were, therefore, related to changes in how people felt and behaved at work throughout the day.

The research, however, found that people who were able to cope with stress were less likely to experience physical and emotional strains resulting from unhealthy eating.

"The big takeaway here is that we now know that unhealthy eating can have almost immediate effects on workplace performance," says study author Seonghee Cho in a news 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," Cho adds.

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