Monday, March 7, 2011

Myth Busters: Eating Late...and a Monday Winner!

March Madness Mix Monday Winner is....

Congrats girl! email me at megolina21 at with your info, so I can send you your goods!! Thanks to everyone who entered!

We made it back into town this morning at 6AM. Gross? Yes, but totally worth it. While driving through the middle of the night I realized another reason why sleep is so dang important for health and weight loss aside from all THESE reasons...

When I stay up late I become hungry again. I am not much of a car sleeper, unfortunately, and so being up all night made me SO hungry! I started thinking about people who offer the "4th meal," or advertise that they, "stay open late," and it makes sense. When you don't have a good sleep schedule you may eat later, causing you to eat more.

This brings up a question I am asked VERY frequently.

Does eating late case weight gain?

Most Direct Answer: No, it doesn't.
Is there more to it than just that...of course, and here's why.

The fact of the matter is, calories are calories. Eating after a certain time won't cause you to gain weight. Eating later at night can lead to some poor habits, which will cause you to gain weight. Weight isn't determined on an hour by hour schedule. Your body doesn't calculate each bite you take and decide if it's going to cause you to gain a pound or lose a pound. It is an accumulative effort. Your deficit or over-consumption of calories over the span of a week, a month, or a year is what matters. If you are overeating for a few weeks, you will see weight gained. The opposite is true for if you are burning more calories than you are consuming for a few weeks. It will result in weight loss. A 300 calorie meal eaten at 6 PM. Is still going to be a 300 calorie meal if you can't make it home to eat dinner until 8:00 PM.

This is where the debate comes in that eating closer to your bed time means your body is burning less calories, whereas if you ate those calories earlier in the day you'd have more time to burn them off. This is a false notion. If you are eating a set amount of calories in a day you will still have a deficit, regardless of the time you ate them. It goes back to the accumulative amount of calories eaten over a period of time. Also, remember that the body never stops working. Your heart is always beating, your blood is always flowing, and you are always inhaling and exhaling, even when you are sleeping. True, you may burning more calories while you're up and about, but your body doesn't take a hiatus.

The key here is can you eat late without falling into poor eating habits. For some, eating later means you might make poor decisions due to being very hungry. Sometimes when we are starving and we come home we eat what is convenient over what is quality. This same idea of hunger and urgency can cause us to overeat as well. Portion sizes don't mean much when you are famished. Eating late can sometimes lead to craving heartier foods because you are so hungry, and these heartier foods can be more calorie laden. For some eating late can lead into grazing through the rest of the night, where setting an exact time to not eat past means you have a guideline as to when you need to stop doing laps around the kitchen and frequenting the pantry. Lastly, eating late can sometimes cause you to not feel hungry for breakfast in the morning. Eating breakfast is one of the best things you can do for your body as far as good health and weight loss. It gets your metabolism going, fuels your brain so you are ready to think for the day, and gives you energy. It's important!

So, is eating late going to kill you? Not at all, but will it help you to avoid it? Probably. 

It is said that you should eat. 
Breakfast like a king, 
lunch like a prince, and 
dinner like a pauper. 

Meaning keep your biggest meals at the beginning of the day, helping you to start with the fuel you need. I advise my clients to eat the larger sum of their carbohydrates for the day in their breakfast. (Think oatmeal, whole grain cereal, wheat toast, etc.) Try to increase your veggies and lean protein content for lunch and dinner.

Can you sleep in the car? I'm not the fall-asleep-anywhere child I once was. I think I actually slept for like 30 mins of our 10 hour drive. I need a nap. Are you a late night eater? I try to eat dinner between 7-8 but I'm usually hungry at 5 or 6 while I'm still training! I'm always ready for dinner when I get home. I always decide what I'm going to have before I get home, so I don't kibosh my day of good eating! When Is your biggest meal of the day? I would say mine is probably lunch. I have standard oatmeal for breakfast, and try to get in the most protein I can at lunch. Dinner is usually a protein shake these days.

Side note: Reader Rene...I don't know if you don't have a blog or if yours is just private, but you've asked a bunch of questions in the past and I love all of your GREAT comments. I can't respond back because I don't show you as having a blog? Do you have an email?? Email me! megolina21 @ :)


Katy said...

Thanks for all of the info! Right now I eat at crazy times because I am always switching between day/night for work. But soon I will be on a set schedule, and it will be easier on my diet. :)

OneLoveSarah said...

great post! All my days vary as to the time I get home so I usually eat breakfast the same time everyday and dinnertime is either early or late depending on work!

marathonmaiden said...

thank god eating late doesn't cause weight gain because lately i've been getting up at 2am to eat because i wake up STARVING. not that i was ever worried hahah.

MegSmith @ Cooking.In.College said...

This is another great post! I love how well you explained everything, I really enjoyed reading this. I am in such a habit of eating a medium breakfast, medium lunch and a big dinner I don't know if I would ever be able to change it! I love that saying though :-)

Jody, RD said...

This is the hardest myth for me to bust with my clients!!!

I am a late eater because of schedule, usually we eat dinner around 8 but sometimes even later!

Biggest meal is definitely Lunch.

Edible Art said...

A great post indeed,
but i got to admit, ive been eating past midnight for yearsss. My sleeping Schedule is def. messed up, but maybe its the metabolism? im still very slim. whew~~ (:

Amanda@runninghood said...

I am such a grazer! All day munching but I try to make it good stuff. But since I workout at night, I come home and just want to stuff my face so I'm more of a late night dinner gal! :) You're awesome!

Angela (the diet book junkie) said...

haha...i don't know if it's because i'm getting old but i can not eat after 7pm, my body just doesn't like it. my biggest meal is always breakfast, cereal and coffee are my two favorite food groups. thanks so much for the info! looking forward to reading more of your blog! :)

Generation X (Slomohusky) said...

due to working late, i had a long stretch of life eating around 10-10:30 PM for my dinner. It usually was the biggest meal of my day as well. The rest of the day was small bite for Breakfast, and grab a sandwich (usually Veggie) at a nearby Deli during work around 2-3 PM. Anyway, this may have been my healthiest eating schedule of my life! So Yah for eating Dinner late! Most of Countries around Meditranean Sea due - Spain, Italy and Greece included.

The Hungry Runner Girl said...

THANK YOU....I am linking this to Billy. We always fight about this. He thinks your metabolism slows down 99% or something ridiculous so your body holds onto everything you eat late at night...ha, I try to explain to him that they just say don't eat late because people tend to overeat or just eat junk late at night but he never understands. YOU DROVE THROUGH THE NIGHT...good thing you didn't tell me before, I would have been up all night sick worrying about you!! I LOVE YOU and can't wait to see you tomorrow!