The idea that eating after a certain time of night leads to weight loss is commonly shared, but is also a misconception.  In reality, gaining or losing occurs no matter how late the food is consumed.

The idea that eating after a certain time of night leads to weight loss is commonly shared, but in reality it is simply a myth based upon sound theories.  The thought is: that if your body takes in a lot of calories, and then you go straight to bed, you won’t be moving enough to burn off those calories.

In theory, it makes sense, but in reality: at the end of each day, you have eaten a certain number of calories and burned a certain number of calories, and it is simple math from there, a deficit of calories when subtracting eaten from burned = weight loss, a surplus of eaten versus burned = weight gain, the only true ‘timing’ that matters in eating is the spacing out of meals and snacks every 2-3 hours throughout the day. 

Your digestive system can comfortably process an amount of food, approximately the size of your fist at any given time. (We all know from Thanksgiving dinners that we can truly fit in MUCH more, but this is the amount that it can process ‘comfortably’.) After the 3 hour mark, the body has just finished processing that food and is looking to relax.  This is when it is time to eat more. 

Think about the metabolism like a machine, if you are constantly making it work to process something at all times of the day, it makes sense why that eating style would burn the most calories by the end of the day.

Or, to use another metaphor, picture your metabolism as a fire.  If you heap too much wood (food) on top (i.e. Thanksgiving dinner’) the fire goes out.  And as we all know, you are left feeling backed up and sluggish while your body attempts to process this overload of food.  The same thing happens though, when you feed the flames too little fuel, it also burns out.  The key to keeping your metabolism, ‘burning’ hot and bright, is to constantly feed it small amounts, consistently throughout the day.

All that said, if you eat something too heavy or too greasy at night, not only will the ‘bad’ food itself likely outweigh any deficits you may have had throughout the day but it will most likely still show residual effects on the scale in the morning as your body has yet to process and flush out that food.  In the long run, once the food is processed, each day you have either affected weight loss, or weight gain, no matter when the food was eaten or calories were burned. 

The bottom line is: if you are truly hungry, or it’s been over 3 hours since you ate something, feel free to have a small and healthy snack no matter how late it is.  But treat it like any other time of the day.  The wrong food at ANYTIME is going to be bad, and the right food and portion at any time is going to be just fine.