This is a MYTH.
Contrary to popular belief, eating late at night doesn’t cause you to gain weight. Your body processes food the same way no matter what time of day you eat it. It’s not when you eat, but the type of food you eat that causes weight gain.
Why All the Fuss?
A study published in the journal Obesity really pushed the myth that eating late at night makes you gain weight. Northwestern University researchers found that when mice ate late at night they gained twice as much weight, even when the amount of calories consumed was the same. The problem is that this study was conducted on mice and doesn’t correlate with humans. The real driver behind the mice’s weight gain is unknown.
A different study on rhesus monkeys showed the exact opposite. Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University found that monkeys who ate late at night were no more prone to weight gain than monkeys who ate earlier in the day.
Empirical evidence also supports the myth that eating late at night makes you gain weight. Most people find that they gain weight when they succumb to the late night munchies. This phenomenon isn’t because your metabolism slows down at night—after all, it is still burning calories—but because the type of foods eaten at night are high in calories…and we tend to consume a lot of them!
Ice cream, cookies, and chips are popular late-night staples, but they’re also extremely high in calories. We eat them while watching television or browsing the Internet, which leads to mindless eating…and more calories consumed. When nutrition experts recommend eating before a certain time (like 8 pm) it’s not because your metabolism fails to burn off the calories at night; it’s to keep you from overdoing it! Eating 90% of your calories a few hours before bed also helps regulate blood sugar and control hunger and cravings.
Start the day off with a high-octane breakfast in order to kickstart your metabolism and fuel healthy food choices throughout the day. Try to eat a meal high in protein and fiber for dinner so that you feel more satiated and don’t cave to late-night sugar binges. And by all means, have a healthy snack before bed…your metabolism will take care of it while you sleep.