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Have you ever been told to avoid eating late at night because it leads to weight gain? While it may be easy to think our bodies have an internal clock set to store anything eaten past a certain hour as fat, this is just a crazy diet myth.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weight Control Information Network, “it does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat.” This pattern and your activity level throughout the day determines whether weight will increase, decrease, or stay constant.
Although your metabolism slows down at night to conserve energy as part of a natural process, a calorie is still a calorie--regardless of when you eat it. Your body will store extra calories as fat if you consume more calories than you need.
A number of studies support that nighttime eating does not always result in weight gain. The British Medical Journal recently reviewed the results of various studies on night-time eating and weight gain with the conclusion that there is no link between night-eating and weight gain. Other health professions and organizations such as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) agree. All state that it's the amount of calories you take in throughout the day, not the time of day you consume them, that effects weight control.
You may be asking yourself: “if the time of day doesn’t matter, how and why do I gain weight when I eat late at night?” This could be due to a number of reasons:
The bottom line is that your body does not process food any differently at night than it does during the day. Instead, whether or not you gain, lose, or maintain weight is all a matter of calories in versus calories out. What's your favorite late night snack? Let us know on Twitter @BeBalancedRD.
Balanced Nutrition for Health & Performance.
I'm Lexi, a Certified Sports Dietitian and Yoga Instructor. I work with individuals, teams, and groups to find fuel and balance within their diets for health and performance.