Many people worry that eating late at night will keep them from losing weight. Find out if that’s true, and see what you should eat at night to stay fit.
Does Eating Before Bed Keep You From Losing Weight?
Despite what you might have heard, eating food after a certain time isn’t in-and-of-itself going to keep you from losing weight. That’s like saying eating breakfast makes you gain weight.
While proponents of not eating after a certain time tout their results, you have to question if the weight loss was a result of not eating after a certain time, or if it was simply due to eating less food over the course of the day.
Weight Loss is About Negative Energy Balance Over Time
This is why when you eat has very little effect on your body composition. There are some merits to meal timing, but the effects are small, and are only noticeable after your calorie intake and macronutrient ratios are dialed in.
Let’s look at the situation differently. If your maintenance calories are 2000 calories, and you eat 2500 calories but stop eating before 6pm, you’re going to gain weight. Stopping eating isn’t going to change your energy balance.
What do you think is going to happen if you instead eat 1800 calories but eat your last meal at 9pm? Do you think you’re going to gain weight when you’re eating under maintenance calories?
The answer is no. You will lose weight, as you created a 200 calorie deficit. This energy deficit will accumulate over time and result in weight loss.
But I Weigh More the Next Morning When I Eat Late at Night
I’m sure you do. Food weighs something, and the closer to your last meal that you weigh yourself, the more you’re going to weigh.
To test this, simply eat a meal and then weigh yourself at 1 hour intervals until your next meal. You will notice that your weight slowly decreases until your next meal.
This is because your body expends calories and loses water through sweat, breathing, and urination. The longer the time period, the more weight you lose, but only within the bounds of energy balance over time.
Hunger Can Disrupt Sleep
Sleep is important for weight loss. Studies show that getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night can negatively affect body composition.
Going to bed hungry can cause stomach pains that keep you from falling asleep. When you stop eating early in the evening you increase the chance that hunger will strike in the middle of night. This is probably one of the worst feelings to have to deal with.
What Can You Eat Before Bed?
In reality, anything can be eaten before bed. Now, anything doesn’t mean everything. In other words, if your goal is to lose weight, you must still create an energy deficit.
If your maintenance intake is 2000 calories, and you’re eating 1700 calories to lose weight, you can eat anything you want to fill your remaining calorie allotment without worry of negatively affecting your weight loss goals.
Eating at night gets a bad rap because it is usually associated with unhealthy processed foods and bingeing. Obviously, the combination of these two things will cause a major blow to your weight loss program.
Personally, I always plan my day’s meals out so that I can eat something around 9pm, as that’s about the time I get hungry and want a snack. I make some healthy peanut butter cookie dough. The whole snack is around 300 calories, and includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and protein.
This easily fits within my day’s calorie allotment, so I can eat it guilt free. There is absolutely nothing wrong with snacking late at night as long as it’s controlled.
So don’t stress about eating at night. Eat what you would normally eat at any other hour of the day. Your body doesn’t know the difference if a calorie is eaten at 8am or 8pm. It only cares about energy balance over time, and so should you.