With so much conflicting information in the fitness world coming from so-called ‘experts’ it’s no wonder why everyone is confused. The issue of late night snacking seems to be one of the most recent topics everyone has something to say about, so at Team Maverick we thought we’d cover the topic from more of a factual perspective and what science tells us on the topic. Yes, a calorie at 7:59pm is exactly the same as a calorie at 8:01pm, and there’s no clear magical time during the evening where every calorie suddenly becomes stored as fat. That being said there are some things to consider when snacking later in to the evening as your time gets closer to hitting the sheets.
In a 2005 study it was found that late-night meals did not lead to extra weight gain. When the same meal was consumed at 10am in the morning versus 10pm at night researchers found no significant differences in weight gain. A calorie was just a calorie no matter what time of day is was eaten.
However, a 2011 study in the Journal of Obesity showed the opposite. The sleeping and eating patterns of 52 people were followed over 7 days. It was found that those who went to bed later in the evening generally consumed more calories in the evening than those that went to bed early. Okay, that’s kind of obvious since if we’re awake longer we’re probably going to eat more. But, what’s also interesting is they found that eating after 8pm, whether you’re a late sleeper or not, WAS associated with a higher body mass index, suggesting that late night snacking could be harmful to your waistline and your abs!
In a more recent study it was suggested that those who tended to eat late were less likely to be successful when trying to lose weight. It was recommended that when trying to lose weight we should pay special attention to both total calories throughout the day, AND eating patterns.
Eating at consistent meal times could also be of importance to those looking to achieve their body composition goals. Late evening eating has been shown to disrupt normal body enzyme function and hormonal balance, leading to excessive fat gain.
In a study, Baron et al. found that total protein, fat and carbohydrate eaten after 8pm was associated with a higher body fat. That’s to say, rather than carbohydrate alone, excessive consumption of ALL nutrients was associated with fat gain. Evening and late night snacking was associated with weight gain not because of the type of food, but because of the total amount of food and calories consumed after 8pm. Again, suggesting that when it comes to eating during this period a calorie is just a calorie, and excessively eating any type of food late in the evening could be hindering your body goals.
Here’s all you need to know
- A calorie is a calorie at the end of the day, however by snacking late in the evening you could be damaging you chances of achieving your body goals. Manage your calories well, maintain a consistent eating pattern, and try to consume less calories later in the evening.
- When trying to lose body fat the total amount of food and calories eaten after 8pm are more important than the type.
- For those that suggest restricting carbohydrates in the evening to be a good fat loss approach, it’s not. It’s merely a way to restrict total carbohydrates and calories throughout the day. Carbohydrate has a positive effect on melatonin and hence sleep quality, so it may be argued that carbohydrates in your evening meal could be beneficial.
- As a rule, if you are late-night snacking then try and minimize the total amount of calories you’re snacking on to no more than 200-300 calories. There’s no magical time where this will automatically be stored as fat but limited the total calories will limit the chances it will.