How many times do you eat during the day? The average person eats 3 meals a day and its usually the same routine: Breakfast in the morning when they wake up, lunch in the afternoon around noon-2 pm when work or school allows for a break, and dinner when they get home in the late afternoon around 5- 7 pm.
This is the typical regime for 90% of people living in the United States since we have food available at almost all hours of our day for us to indulge on. However, when it comes to health and fitness, somewhere along the road someone came up with one of the many health and diet myths that eating food late at night is bad for you. To answer the question, is eating late at night bad for you?: No. Eating late at night is not bad nor does it have any different effects vs eating earlier in the day.
When you eat during your day it is entirely subjective to your own daily routine. Some people have breakfast while others do not. Some of us eat dinner around 5-6 pm and others might not eat dinner until 11pm or even past midnight due to other daily commitments. However, when it comes down to being “good” or “bad”, there is no correct answer. It is neither good nor bad to eat late at night.
When it comes down to weight, our weight and fat levels are controlled primarily by one overriding factor: Calories.
Calories work 2 ways. We take in calories or consume food and we also burn calories or exercise/use energy during our day. Now, each food has a “set” number of calories and daily activity works the same way. So when you eat you are providing the body with calories or energy to continue functioning. If you eat a meal worth 500 calories and later you exercise and burn 500 calories, we believe that the previous meal isn’t going to make us gain weight. However, when we eat 500 calories late at night while still exercising the same 500 calories earlier during the day, we are still in the same position at 500 calories consumed and 500 calories burned giving us a net surplus of 0 calories.
The time of day in which we eat does not have a correlate to weight gain. In fact, I actually recommend eating late at night for many people due to the simple fact that if you do not eat late at night and feel hungry going to bed, you have a higher chance of waking up the following morning starving and possibly binge eating throughout the morning to quench your hunger, playing havoc with your diet, which can result in eating more compared to usual.
To Eat or Not To Eat?
For some people there daily routine does not allow them to go to the gym in the morning or afternoon and instead they are forced to go to the gym late at night. If you’re one of these people who gets home at around 9-11 pm after your gym session then believing that eating late at night is detrimental will hinder your training success.
If you have been to the gym and worked out then your body needs nutrients, namely protein and carbohydrates for muscle recovery, growth and repair. Therefore, it is actually vitally important that you make sure you eat a meal late at night to make sure your body gets the required nutrients to help recovery. Taking the attitude that it’s late at night and you’re not going to eat because you’ve heard it’s bad for you, then going to bed, means you could go 6-8 hours or longer without food. This will certainly damage your body’s ability to recover effectively.
If you’re training late at night then make sure you eat before going to bed! Otherwise a lot of your hard work will be wasted if you’re trying to increase muscle mass.
If you’re trying to loose fat then it is still important to eat, just be conscious of what you eat and the number of calories you’re consuming. Remember that to lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit, so don’t go consuming a 1500 calorie meal if you’ve only burned 1000 calories! If you have burned 1000 calories see if you can manage on a meal of 500-750 calories.
Take Home Message
Eating late at night is neither bad nor good. It’s simply a preference on when you are able to eat. So, to answer the next question, what should you eat? Preferably something that is high in protein and low in sugar to allow for easier digestion during the night.
Eating at 5pm or 10pm has no difference in results on the body, eat when you have the time.