Chances are if you’re trying to lose weight you’ve come across a lot of expert advice and rules. These include rules around how often you should eat, what you should eat, how often you should work out and when. One “rule” that seems to be getting a lot of play these days is, “don’t eat at night.” I think it stems from the trend of intermittent fasting. Regardless of where this rule originated, I wanted to give my own expert advice on it.
To put it plainly, contrary to what you may have heard, the simple act of eating at night will not make you fat. Your body is not on a timer and can’t tell what time it is when you feed it. Your body will not store more fat if you eat at night. When you eat, whether it’s in the morning, at noon or at night, will not influence whether you lose or gain weight – at least not on its own.
What is more important about the timing of your meals is whether it triggers behavioral patterns in your eating that could negatively affect your weight loss goals. For example, many people eat at night out of boredom. For some people, having their last meal on the later side may spur them to follow dinner with several trips to the pantry for snacks that put them over the edge calorie wise. It’s the over-doing it that leads to weight gain, not the time of the meal. A healthy and nutritious diet doesn’t turn to a fattening one depending on what time you eat.
To back this up, a 6-month study compared people who ate their largest meal at breakfast to those who ate their largest meal at dinner (8 p.m. or later). Compared to the morning eaters, those who ate at night:
- Had less hunger cravings and were more satisfied with their meals
- Lost 11 percent more weight
- Had a 10 percent greater change in abdominal circumference
- Lost a 10.5 percent more body fat
Now, this is not to say that late night eating is the way to go, but it does show that it’s possible to be a late eater and still make positive changes to your body.
I think when it comes to lasting health, fitness and weight loss, the fewer rules the better. Rather than following a restrictive diet plan that dictates what you eat and when, look to find a healthy eating and exercise pattern that is sustainable and works for you.