You have probably heard that eating most of your calories before bed will make you gain weight. Smaller, frequent meals throughout the day and no eating within 3 hours of sleep are best for fat loss….right?
Physiologically this is NOT TRUE. Eating a snack or even a large portion of your calories right before bed WILL NOT make you gain fat faster than eating the same amount of food earlier in the day! There is absolutely NO research that supports this claim on a physiological level. If you consume 2000 calories per day and expend 2000 calories, you are at balance no matter when the calories are consumed.
Some people believe if they don’t eat much all day, then eat a lot at night, it will be stored as fat because their body thinks it is starving and goes into “survival” mode. While there is a reduction in metabolism due to LONG TERM low calorie diets (and a corresponding increased potential to store fat once returning to normal calorie intake) there is not a significant reduction due to ONE DAY of a very low calorie intake.
That being said there are disadvantages to consuming all of your calories at once. Some may make you gain weight, but not on a physiological level due to calorie timing.
1. Hunger levels from fasting all day may cause you to eat MORE calories than you should at the end of the day. Most individuals are more satiated when meals are consumed in equal portions throughout a day.
2. Recovery from exercise will not be optimized if you consume too many calories at night, while neglecting the rest of the day.
3. Energy levels throughout your day may be lower as well. If you exercise while fasted, your energy levels may suffer.
4. Will power is an exhaustible resource. If you are resisting food ALL day with hopes to limit intake, it may result in an eventual collapse/binge at night. The collapse/binge tends to be higher in calories than the sum of a few satisfying snacks during the day.
Take Home Message:
The time of day and amount you eat at each meal must fit into your daily routine. To optimize performance and health, it may be best to eat a few well rounded meals per day; however, if your only goal is fat loss, eating before bed will not be a limiting factor, assuming you stay within your calorie range and it doesn’t disturb your sleep!