Do You Gain Weight from Eating Late at Night?

Conventional wisdom tells us not to eat before we go to bed because the food will turn to fat. The logic is our metabolism slows down at night and we naturally produce more fat.

Fact or fiction? It’s mostly fiction.

It is true our metabolisms do slow slightly when we sleep but our basic bodily functions still burn a lot of calories. Our basal metabolic rate which accounts for our basic functions is responsible for 60% to 75% of our caloric expenditure. Our bodies are running 24/7. This doesn’t stop just because we’re sleeping.

Do foods we eat just turn to fat? No, they don’t. Your genetics determine how your body burns fuel. Some people burn less fuel than others doing the same activities. Your body metabolizes food and puts it where it needs to go all day long and not just at night. You aren’t going to burn fat during the day and store fat at night. Most of the calories you burn during a day are used for basic body functions. Your exercise and activities require energy as well but burning body fat through exercise is a very slow process.

So, our metabolism doesn’t slow down much at night and we don’t convert food straight to fat. Why do we think eating late at night makes us gain weight?

Eating at night basically adds another snack or meal to your daily diet. You’re consuming more food and more calories. You’re simply overeating.

It’s more important what you eat and how much you eat versus when you eat.

Let’s assume your daily intake is 2,500 calories a day to maintain your current weight. Your ratio of macronutrients is 25% protein, 25% fat and 50% carbohydrate. If you eat this amount of food in this ratio in 3 meals a day will you gain weight? Probably not. If you eat this amount of food in this ratio in 5 meals a day will you gain weight? Probably not. It’s the same amount of food in the same ratio just in smaller amounts per meal.

If one of those meals is right before bed will you gain weight? Probably not.

If you want a snack or a small meal before you go to bed have it. If it’s extra calories beyond what you need to maintain your body weight, then you’re going to gain weight.

Figure out how much you need to eat and in what ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrate. Eat this amount of food in whatever ratio of meals works for your lifestyle. 3 to 5 meals a day is recommended.