There are tons of old wives’ tales in the nutrition world. One of the most prominent is the claim that eating late makes you more prone to being overweight. Let’s get right to it:
Does eating past 7pm make you fat?
In short, the answer is no. Energy balance still reigns king when it comes to fat gain and loss. The simple truth is that if you eat more calories than you expend, you’ll put on weight. If you eat less, then you’ll lose weight. The time of the day that you consume those calories is irrelevant.
So where did that myth come from?
We’re not sure anyone knows exactly who started the rumor but lots of trendy, fad diets recommend to stop eating past 7pm-ish as a means to help weight loss. Could that be effective? Yes, but again, just because you’re more likely to eat less food if you have a smaller timeframe in which to eat.
If you require about 2,200 calories to maintain your current weight and manage to eat 2,400 calories between the hours of 6am and 7pm, you’ll still gain weight regardless of whether or not you stop eating past 7pm.
What about the studies?
You can certainly find some scientific studies that support the claim that late night eating leads to fat gain. That being said, in those studies there is also a definitive correlation to poor lifestyle factors like poor sleep quality, shift work, high stress, and simply the overconsumption of total calories, part of which happened once the sun set. So there’s that.
Most recent studies acknowledge that while there could be a correlation between late night eating and obesity, there are other variables are actually the contributor to fat gain.
So, enjoy your before bedtime snacks, kids.
In moderation, of course.