Late night eating: does it matter when I eat close to bed time?

I often get asked a number of questions when it comes to eating and eating late at night:

  • Is it bad for me?
  • Should I do it?
  • Are there any negatives?

 

 

Well, let’s start of with one key answer.

Late night eating isn’t bad for you at all. It isn’t going to make you put on weight as long as you’re not eating over your calories (if you are eating over your calories then it’s the excess calories that make you gain weight anyhow).

If your body needs fuel (food) then it needs fuel (food), no matter what time of the day it is.

So, in essence, late night eating isn’t bad for you nor will it lead to you getting fat. There’s other factors for that.

 

If I don’t eat for a while is that bad?

It can be, which is why if you need food then you should eat.

Let’s take an example.

You’ve been at work all day.

You had your breakfast around 7am, your lunch around 12noon and then you don’t get in from work (and maybe a workout at the gym) until 8pm.

Now that is quite a long time between meals in the afternoon, but would it then be best to not eat because it’s fairly late and you’ll go to bed by 10/11pm?

No.

You should eat.

If you don’t eat then you’ll be effectively starving your body of its much-needed nutrients, which isn’t going to do it any good no matter what goal you have in health and fitness.

 

Your energy management system

The body is designed to take care of everything when you put food into it. This includes things like:

  • Rebuilding tissue
  • Re-generating energy
  • Making hormones

 

And everything else that makes you, you, comes from your food.

If you don’t eat the right types of food that your body requires then how can you expect it to function properly and give you the energy you need?

Now, it is more ideal to eat your evening meal around 5 or 6pm, but if you haven’t got the ability to do that then it’s best to do it at the earliest opportunity you have.

If it means eating after you get in around 8pm then that’s what works for you and your lifestyle. There’s no point beating yourself up and becoming demotivated because of what you’re doing in your life if you’re moving forward.

 

What if I have a fast metabolism?

If you have a fast metabolism and you need food quite constantly and you don’t eat then your body is going to slow down and then reduce your metabolism.

Now, this is only going to happen if you continually do that but you should keep it in mind if you tend to skip meals every now and then.

What will happen is that if you continue to eat the same amount of calories and your metabolism has slowed down then you will gain weight.

Let’s take an example:

If you have on a normal day 2,000 calories to “spend” consuming your food and you ate at 7am, 1pm, 5pm and 9pm, and you eat 500 calories at each sitting (which is 2,000) and you burn 2,000 calories a day then you won’t lose weight nor will you gain any weight.

It’s simple numbers.

What if I want to lose weight?

If weight loss is your goal and you don’t want to cut down on the number of meals you eat every day because you’re used to it by habit and you don’t want to either feel hungry going to sleep or wake up feeling hungry, then as long as you maintain a deficit of calories you’ll lose weight.

Let’s day you eat 400 calories per meal and you have four of them a day. That’s 1,600 calories total consumption for the day when you’re burning through 2,000.

You will lose weight no matter what time of the day you eat your food. Even if it’s late at night: the timing of your meals isn’t important here, the number of calories you eat is.

For some people eating late on at night affects their sleep. For others, not eating late on at night can have a negative impact on their sleep and wake cycle.

Now, if you continuously eat closer to bed time and do it often then that may have a negative impact on your ability to lose weight as quickly.

This is because if you continuously eat later at night then this causes an imbalance in your hormones.

And, you then have the fact that if you under-consume too much on your calories it can have the opposite effect that you want it to: where your body shuts down its fat burning ability and tends to start storing fat for a famine.

 

When the body reacts

The body has a really fine line around what it allows you to do when it comes to eating and being correctly nourished.

When there’s a calorie deficit there are a number of different things that the body does to counteract things, but that’s too long and too in-depth to go into in this blog post.

 

So, is eating late on at night going to make you gain weight or have any negative effect on your body? No.

If you need the food then you need the food.

But, if you eat a treat and that treat takes you over your calorie amount then you will gain weight. It’s as simple as that.

But, you’re not going to get fat by eating late on at night if you’re under-consuming on calories.

So, feel free to eat late on at night. Especially if it makes you feel better and you have a better night’s sleep.

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