Many people think that anything you eat after 8 p.m. turns into fat. The body would go into a “low energy” mode and burn calories much less efficiently, which causes people to gain weight. Eating late at night makes you fat: true or false?
When it comes to weight, the key point is the ratio between the number of calories consumed and eliminated over a day. If you eat more than what you burn, you store fat. There is a difference in “basal” metabolic rate (excluding activity) between day and night, but it is so small that it has almost no effect.
As a general rule, the main meal should provide 30 to 35% of the total energy for the day, whether taken in the morning, noon or evening. The energy needs of moderately active women fluctuate around 2000 kcal, and for men it hovers around 2500 kcal.
Eating late at night is a risk factor for weight gain if the time between breakfast and dinner is filled with high calorie snacks without reducing the quantities of the meals. So it has nothing to do with the time of the evening meal either.
That being said, eating too late and eating foods that are high in fat can cause all kinds of discomfort, in particular a feeling of heaviness in the stomach, intestinal discomfort or trouble sleeping. Eating too late is not recommended for people who suffer from acidity or reflux, as it may worsen their symptoms. And in any case, they must leave enough time (an hour or two) between the time they eat and the time they go to bed.
However, some studies suggest that people who eat late are more likely to be overweight. For example, a recent survey of eating habits in various European countries showed that people who eat a lot of food in the evening weigh more on average than others. But this also applies to those who take calorie snacks between meals or who skip breakfast. However, none of these studies found a causal link between eating late and having a higher BMI. It could be, for example, that people who eat late at night exercise less than others.
Regularity – eating as much as possible at set and regular intervals – may play a (limited) role. There are indications that people who regularly skip meals or work on breaks are more likely to gain weight. But it could be because they are eating more than they need or consuming more energy-dense snacks.
In conclusion, there is no definitive evidence that the late eating habit is bad for your weight. It is nevertheless recommended to plan three meals a day, favoring breakfast and lightening supper, plus a maximum of two or three healthy snacks.
Betsy is a true science nerd, down to the glasses. Her words, not mine! She works as a nurse specializing in pediatric nursing. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about all thing pregnancy and baby-related.