How Will Eating Food Late At Night Affect Your Fitness Goals?

Everyone gets those late night munchies. Many of us have been told before that it’s not good to eat before bed because it will make you gain bad weight. There is a some conflicting evidence on how eating food late at night affects your fitness goals. Let me give you both sides to the story and then tell you why I think if you are not careful eating food late at night may make you gain weight.

I’ll give you the bad news first. One of the most popular studies done on this subject was done by Harvard researchers. They studied 420 people (half men, half women)  in a mediterranean town in Spain for 20 weeks. The study subjects all got the same amount of sleep and had similar digestive hormones, like leptin and ghrelin. Everyone consumed 1400 calories per day and they all did a similar amount of exercise. The one difference in their diet was the times at which they ate. One group ate the biggest meal of the day before 3 pm. The other group at the biggest meal after 3 pm. At the end of the study the group of people who ate the bulk of their calories earlier in the day lost an average of 22 pounds and had a higher insulin sensitivity, which decreases chances of diabetes. The group who ate later everyday lost an average of 17 pounds. This study supports the idea that the timing of your calorie consumption can effect weight loss goals, but it does not prove the cause and effect. There are still many skeptics out there.

Now let me give you some good news. One of my good friends who is a fitness competitor ate late at night for 12 weeks straight before a figure competition, and felt great! He now even recommends eating late to some of the clients that he trains. Some benefits that he experienced while eating late at night were better sleep, better recovery, increased muscle preservation during fat loss, and dietary obedience.

If you have ever eaten a big meal and felt sleepy afterwards, you’re probably experiencing the effects of a “food coma”. You don’t have to take it to the extreme, but a snack before bed can give you a slight sleepy feeling that may help you sleep easier. Eating before bed can help your body recover from daily strenuous activity. A good meal, even at night can act as a recovery drink after a hard workout. Remember, you are about to lay still for 7 or 8 hours and your body needs the nutrition to help your body recover. To maintain muscle while you’re burning fat, it can help to eat before bed, so your body doesn’t break down your muscles for energy. Lastly, if you have a meal planned, chances are you will make more healthy choices. One of the worst things about eating late are those spur of the moment unhealthy temptations that we fall for. If you are already planning a meal, chances are you will make better choices to abide by your healthy diet.

In my opinion, the timing of meals plays a small role in your fitness goal, but not nearly as much as what you are eating. Eat small meals throughout the day. If you are going to be up late, you don’t have to starve yourself, that is terrible for your metabolism. Go ahead and eat a healthy snack. Stay away from heavy foods, lots of sugar, spicy foods, and greasy things that will just sit in your stomach and keep you from sleeping soundly. An example of a good late snack would be a light protein, like deli meat or yogurt, with a light carb like a vegetable. Try not to eat your late night snack within an hour of going to bed. You want to give yourself time to digest while your still awake so you don’t affect your sleep.

If you have been wondering how eating food late at night will affect your fitness goals, I hope this information helps you out. The good news is that you don’t have to go to bed hungry anymore, but you still want to plan the meal so you can making last second unhealthy decisions. Go to the store and get some healthy snacks in case you stay up late this week, and leave a comment about your favorite before bed meal.

Adam Pegg About Adam Pegg

Adam is an athlete with a serious passion for fitness and health. He played basketball at University of Delaware and Stetson. His degree is in health science and he's a certified personal trainer who loves helping people reach their goals.