Eating Late At Night. Good or Bad for You? - FIT Human Performance

Eating Late At Night. Good or Bad for You?


kitchemSeptember 22, 2013

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” “Don’t eat after 7:00 pm if you want to lose fat .” Blah blah blah. This well-known approach is recommended and adhered to by just about every dieter and fitness expert out there.

The fascination with this eating plan  is based on the belief that eating late at night can make you fat. Why would eating late at night make a person fat, you ask?  Here are some of the more popular reasons:

  • 1) Since you’re less active at night, you’ll be less likely to burn the calories you just ate. This will lead to a greater percentage of these calories being converted to body fat.
  • 2) Food choices usually get worse in the evening.
  • 3) Eating at night can disturb sleep patterns, thus leading to poor recovery and regeneration.
  • 4) Your digestive system slows down at night, so any food eaten then will not be fully absorbed.
  • And last but not least, a scientific study showed that mice that ate during the evening were more likely to gain fat than mice that consumed the same amount of calories earlier in the day.

At first glace, some of these arguments seem to make sense. The perceived validity of these viewpoints definitely had me buying into the “do not eat late” theory for quite a while, and I recommended that my clients not eat too late in the evening.

John Alvino, CEO of Warrior Strength and Conditioning, decided to put this long standing theory to the test. He broke away from this rigid eating philosophy and began to eat meals after 7:00 pm. A bit apprehensive about this drastic change because he was getting ready for a physique competition and the “eating late makes you fat” mantra had been effectively pounded into his head by just about every authority in the biz.

The only reason he changed his eating pattern was because he was hungrier during the evening hours. So he threw the accepted norm out the window and decided to listen to his body (and specifically his growling stomach!).

For 12 straight weeks, he ate late at night on a regular basis. The result? How about the exact opposite of conventional wisdom? John started dropping body fat and getting ripped even faster than he had when he didn’t eat at night! This experiment and its surprising result gave John the confidence to recommend that his clients follow in his footsteps.  Their results were equally impressive. In addition to getting lean fast, they discovered some other advantages to this new approach:

  • Sleep dramatically improved- This side effect was not expected by any one, so there is no chance that sleep improved from a placebo effect. After further review, it actually made perfect sense. Most of us have gotten tired at some point from eating a relatively large meal. This “food coma” probably has to do with hormonal shifts following the ingestion of a meal.  The new approach actually took advantage of this physiological phenomenon by letting it help us get more tired during the time of day when we are winding down.
  • Daily productivity is significantly increased- This point is a continuation of point one. By consuming the majority of your calories at night, you can lighten up the quantity of food ingested in your daytime meals. This keeps your energy levels peaking during your most productive hours.
  • Dietary compliance is greatly enhanced- Most dietary cheating gets done during the evening hours. This is due to the combination of hunger and boredom. You see, most of us are busiest during the daytime. When you’re busy, it’s less common to stop your activity, drive over to the local Friendly’s and engorge yourself with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Sunday 10 minutes before an important meeting. It’s usually nighttime when our minds are less distracted and thoughts of a pizza delivery become so tempting.  Therefore, if you have healthy meals PLANNED for late evening, there will be much less of a temptation to cheat at night.  Simple…yet brilliant.
  • According to the “experts”, after a strenuous night of sleeping, a recovery breakfast is absolutely critical to success. Recovery is boosted- Eating at the end of the day has the same effect as having a post-workout meal. It helps you recover from your active day, whether you worked out that day or not.  When we unwind at night, our body can actually benefit from a replenishment meal. Most other experts will try to convince you that the most important replenishment meal is breakfast. Really? Do we really need to so desperately replenish ourselves after sleeping motionlessly for eight hours? I don’t think so.
  • Better maintenance of lean muscle mass during a fat loss phase- John noticed this effect on just about every dieter (and he has the body composition tests to back it up). Quite frankly, I’m not sure why this phenomenon happens, but I’m willing to take a stab at it. One theory is that eating late at night could lead to a greater rate of nutrient absorption. You see, from being active and eating lighter during the day, muscles become depleted. Depleted muscles soak up nutrients like a sponge, much more so than at any other time. The explanation could also be hormonal. Lighter daytime eating could lead to increases in growth hormone production. Then, eating at night could trigger a release of the anabolic hormones testosterone and insulin. Whatever it is, it’s real.  So take advantage of it!

Although the recommendations from the test promote eating late at night, stopping eating at least 90 minutes prior to going to bed is important.  This is because digestion does take energy, and when you’re sleeping, your energy should be reserved for recovery and restoration.  Therefore, you should not go to sleep with a good deal of food in your stomach that still needs to be digested.

Well there you have it. Eating late at night does NOT make you fat! Instead, eating processed unhealthy food and/or eating too much  food are the real culprits of excessive body fat. Okay, it’s getting late, I’m going to go grab a bite.

In good health,


P.S. Remember, this is a forum for information and sharing the latest in health and fitness. PLEASE do not change your lifestyle thinking without a plan. This is a new philosophy and still requires boundaries and discipline. If you have questions, let’s talk.

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.” – William Blake