Will Eating at Night Make Me Gain Weight?
We’ve all heard it “Don’t eat ANYTHING after (insert insanely early time here) or you’ll get FAT.”
A lot of people believe that, and so they limit food intake past a certain time.
7pm seems to be the go-to time and that might be fine depending on when you go to bed. But is it really necessary to have a cut-off time for nourishment, even if you’re hungry?
Well fit friend, let’s find out if eating after the sun goes down will make the scale go up.
Does Eating Before Bed Cause Weight Gain?
There have been so many studies especially in the last two decades surrounding eating late at night. Early on, researchers claimed cutting off food intake at night will aid in weight loss and improve health. Many studies support that, and many debunk that.
The issue with supporting science used to give weight to a theory is that the testing is often inconsistent between other studies.
For instance, the age of participants, length of studies, types of food consumed at night, current body composition of subjects, and so on, is often not aligned among studies.
These factors impact the results of any test:
- How old are they?
- What are they eating?
- When are they eating it?
- How much are they eating?
- At what times are they eating?
- Do they have pre-existing conditions?
So if we take the results of all these studies at face value—we would say “we don’t know if eating before bed will make you fat!”
If you’re asking this question, we are going to assume you are already a health conscious individual. Good on you!
So, your food choice late at night would not likely be a dozen donuts. Is that fair? It probably wouldn’t even be one donut, or cheeseburger or taco…(mmmmm tacos *drools a little*.) Is that correct?
Because if the answer is no, then you’re going to gain weight period. Eating like that at any time of the day will impact your weight. *raises eyes brows, shakes head side to side and silently tsk-tsks*
So let’s talk about the studies that show eating at night will cause weight gain.
Older Studies Showed Eating Late at Night Caused Weight Gain
Older studies argued eating late at night caused weight gain and health issues because of reduced glucose tolerance, slower digestion and resting energy expenditure observed during the tests.
Other studies using mixed macronutrient meals showed the thermic response to food was less during night consumption and less satisfying. They theorized this led to a greater caloric consumption overall and weight gain.
Additional studies, using third-shift workers with Night Eating Syndrome (NES), which is someone who consumes the majority of daily calories AFTER dinner, has adverse health consequences.
In all of these tests, they did not use healthy individuals consuming a healthy snack or restrict the number of calories or types of macronutrients.
We aren’t talking about ONLY third shift workers with NES, are we? We aren’t talking about animals, or people with pre-existing medical conditions that could contribute to the end results.
All of these studies can sound pretty scary.
But, not when you look at the data for normal healthy individuals eating a healthy snack before bed.
The Truth About Eating at Night
Studies actually highlight the benefits of eating before bed and its relationship to healthy active lifestyles in the young, older and even those with diseases. It’s also beneficial for those who are already overweight. In fact
Now, let’s say you’re hungry and you grab a protein bar or a soy patty at 10pm. Recent studies show, in fact, when selecting nutrient-dense snack-size (~150 calories) and single macronutrient sources, rather than a mixed meal, is great for muscle protein synthesis, morning metabolism and cardio-metabolic health.
Seriously, we just linked about 8 studies supporting this, and there are more within those links. Feed your mind with more facts, if you please.
To sum up the studies: If you’re not consuming the majority of your calories after dinner, you are actually benefiting your body by having a healthy protein-rich snack before bed. Go you.
If you go even further and make it a protein-rich snack over carbs, studies show you’ll see improvements in blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
So there you have it…D E B U N K E D—well—kind of.
Again, we can’t go singing that ‘eating before bed is healthy’ because that would just perpetuate the confusion that got us where we are today.
We can say –“Eating a small protein-rich snack of around 150 calories before bed will improve health and weight.” See? It’s all in the details.
So it when it comes down to answering your question–it boils down to this: Your choices—not when you eat, but WHAT you eat.
If you eat high calorie, high sugary foods late at night, or overeat—yes, you will gain weight. But don’t go blaming it on the night. It will be because of your lifestyle. But if you eat a healthy snack before going to bed—get ready for more relaxed arteries and a little less weight. Whoot whoot!
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