How Late Can You Eat?
One of the most common questions that I receive is around the timing of your eating. There seems to be a notion that you can’t eat late at night, or it will make you gain weight. However, that really isn’t the truth here. With all of the other factors that play into your nutrition, this one falls a little low on the totem pole.
In this post, I’ll detail whether or not eating late makes you gain weight as well as what I recommend you do for your personal goals. The timing of your eating can benefit you, but time of day really isn’t a big deal.
Does the Time Really Matter?
Timing does play a role in your eating. However, it’s usually just in a sense of workout performance and digestion. For example, if you have a big workout coming up, you don’t want to consume a massive meal before. It’ll be sitting on your stomach and wanting to come back up the entire workout. Plus, during a workout, your digestion isn’t operating at full capacity. This is due to the blood being worked into the muscles versus the digestive system. It’s recommended that you eat about 2 hours out from your workout.
Now, what about time between meals? This isn’t as big of a deal as is believed. The common thought on this is that you need to eat about 2-3 hours a part to boost metabolism. However, this doesn’t have as much influence as is told. In fact, you can eat meals that are 5-6 hours apart and see no difference. It really comes down to schedule and preference. Not everyone is going to have time in their day to stop 6 times and eat a meal. Some people may only have time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Find what works for you on timing so that you can stick with it. This is how you get results.
Time of day also doesn’t matter. Many people seem to think that eating early is great, and nighttime eating is bad. In reality, it doesn’t matter that much. What does matter is the kind of food you eat, and the amount. If you’re eating fast food and tons of calories over your goal, you’re going to gain weight. This is no matter what time you eat. Yet, if you ate in caloric deficit, and ate at night you would still lose weight. Quality of food and amount trump timing of food every time.
What I Recommend
I recommend finding something that works best for your schedule. We’re all unique and operate at different times of the day. For example, some people work nights and may need to eat dinner a lot later.
Typically, I recommend that individuals eat about every 2-4 hours that they’re awake. This allows some time for you to actually digest your food and be ready for another meal. What’s most important is that it matches your schedule for the day. If you can stick to it for a long time, then it’s going to be successful.
You may also be someone who trains late, and I recommend a post workout meal every time. This may lead to you having a later meal, which is perfectly find seeing as it will have no effect on you gaining fat (unless it puts you way over into a surplus of calories).
Base it on Your Goals
That leads into the next suggestion on this topic. The timing of you eating needs to revolve around your goals. If your goal is bulking, then you may need to get in those later calories to hit your intake for the day. This is perfectly fine! On the other hand, let’s say you’re trying to cut weight. You’d need to be in a caloric deficit. At the end of the day, after a long workout, you may just have room for a protein shake and bed. Different goals desire different processes.
So, decide what your goal is and hit that desired number no matter what time.
The myth is busted! No, eating late will not ruin your progress or make you gain fat. The only way that is happening, is if you are eating in a caloric surplus, which many people do at night. Think about it, what foods are MOST people consuming at night? Cookies, ice cream, etc. This is what leads to overeating, not the timing.
Remember that food quality and amount are what matter the most.
Timing can be effective around your workouts and when considering digestion. Typically, if you give food at least 2 hours to digest, you won’t see any trouble.
I recommend that you base your food timing off of your personal goals. Look at your schedule and decide when you need to be eating. Just don’t worry about a cut off time. You’ve got a full 24 hours (much of which will be spent sleeping) to work with here. Get in the food you need, and you’ll start seeing the progress you want to have.