Daffy eating late at night a piece of chicken from the movie "Gremlins 2: New Batch". Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Fact or Fiction: Eating Late At Night Makes You Fat?

It always starts with a long day at work. After work it’s the hour you find yourself stuck traffic.

As soon as you walk in the door of your house, you remember that your bathroom lights were out and you needed to go by the hardware store for some new ones.

As you get home again from the store, you get a phone call from your mother. As soon as you hang up the phone, you realize that it’s almost 9 PM and you still haven’t even eaten dinner yet!

“Why does this keep happening to me? I’m always eating so late. I guess that’s why I’m always going to be fat!”

How many of you out there go through a similar after work ritual?

Whether it’s groceries, phone calls, meetings or your kids after school activities, there’s bound to be some sort of distraction in your life.

When it comes towards dinner time, most people will have it scheduled for some time between 5:30 – 8 pm. Just like all those classic TV show families we watched on TV.

How many of us actually do that?

Better yet how many of us actually eat dinner before 8 PM?

With our fast paced society, we have let distractions push our dinner time back later and later. To help with later dinners, fast food industries popped up every where!

Remember when it was rare to see a fast food joint opened past 10 PM?

Now most are open 24/7. No matter how late you eat you’ll find something available!

As we became a nation of late eaters, rumors start to spread that the later you ate, the more weight you would gain.

Do you think that’s true?

Origin of the Get Fat Eating Myth

“There are 3 rules:

1) No bright light

2) Don’t get him wet and

3) Never feed him after midnight, no matter how much he begs…..”

When hearing that classic movie quote, I always wonder whether those rules apply to a Mogwai or your typical Amercian!

Nobody like’s bright light in their eyes at night. Same with wearing wet clothes.

But that third rule strikes a cord. It’s not necessarily at midnight but really anytime after 8 PM that most people think that eating will make them into a fat monster. I don’t know what year that myth started but it’s been passed on for generations.

I remember the first time I heard that myth was when I was in my 4th year of college. A temporary roommate of mine knew I was into weightlifting and loved to cook. One day he saw me eating at 10 PM and mockingly said “You’re breaking the golden rule of bodybuilding Mike! You know there’s no eating after 8PM!”

I proceeded to give him the MicVinny “you’re an idiot” stare because it sounded ridiculous. Especially considering that I wasn’t going to bed until 3 AM.

(It was college you know! )

There’s No Magic Time

I would like to make sure you understand there’s no magical cut off time for eating. You’re not a Mogwai so you’re not going to turn into a gremlin (at least I hope not!).

Gizmo from the movie Gremlins. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

The time of your last meal doesn’t matter as much as the time you will be going to sleep. The real key factor in figuring out when you should stop eating is the time you will be lying down.

A good rule of thumb is to have your last meal at least two hours before bed. The reason for that time period really has to do with your digestive system.

If you want your body to properly function, you will want to make sure that all of your food gets properly digested. Proper digestion happens when you’re in an upright position.

If you lie down with a full stomach, you’re interrupting the digestive process, which will lead to other major issues down the road.

It’s Not WHEN But WHAT You Eat That Matters

If you’re eating foods high in fat and carbohydrates, your body will store most of those calories as fat. That has nothing to do with the meal timing but has everything to do with the contents of your meal.

If being healthy is your true goal, you need to stop falling for the high carbohydrate high fat meal traps.

Haven’t you ever wondered why fast food places are open so late?

They are designed to get you to eat highly processed cheap food. Especially at night time!

Your body is naturally designed to eat more food when it’s dark outside.

High Carbohydrates + High Fats + Late at night = Bad Decisions for the brain + Rapid Fat Gain in you waist!

When thinking of late night snacks most of us think of snacking on high carb/high fat foods like ice cream, chips, cookies, pizza, etc. Compare that to someone that eats spinach, chicken breast, eggs, carrot sticks, etc.

Which one of those late night snackers do you think will be gaining weight when eating at night?

There’s a big difference between eating 400 calories vs. eating 4,000 calories immediately before bed! Consistently doing one of those will always lead to weight gain!

It’s not just this one meal either. Remember your overall daily calories still matter. If you’re overeating all day, you need to nip that in the bud! That’s the real reason you’re gaining weight.

Fact or Fiction?

The overall answer to this question is that it’s fiction.

It is possible to eat late at night as long as you’re eating the right foods. Even when eating the right foods, you still should give your body at least two hours to digest properly.

If you do that, you’ll be fine.