After a regretful night of Applebee’s half-priced appetizers that sadly ended at 1:15 AM, I left feeling very ashamed and in denial. During my feelings of regret, though, I did come up with an idea for a blog post. I have often heard that eating after a certain time at night causes more weight gain than eating during earlier times of the day. Is this true? Is late night snacking worse for your calorie count? This myth has been around for as long as I can remember, but I want to see if there’s some truth behind it.
This article explains why this question is so tricky. It explains that technically, the time of day that you eat does not really matter. A 100 calorie snack has 100 calories in the morning and at night, and they both affect your body the same way. But if it really makes no difference, how did this rumor get started? The problem lies in what you eat. When it is late at night, people tend to go for foods that are more fattening and worse for your body. When you crave food at night, fruits and vegetables usually do not satisfy your craving. But overall, the time of day does not affect the fat that you intake. Simply eating something at night does not make it more fattening or unhealthy. But the weight gain occurs because of the content of the food you choose.
The article closes by saying why this question is a tricky one to answer. “However, people who eat late at night tend to choose high-calorie foods that their bodies can do without. If you are one of these people, avoiding food after dinner may help you deter weight gain—or even promote weight loss.” So the rumor that eating late at night causes weight gain is partially true, but entirely dependent on the person and what they eat. If your midnight snack consists of healthy foods, then there is no cause for concern about gaining weight. If someone wanted proof of this, an experiment could be done where a wide variety of participants eat healthier foods while some eat fattening ones at the same time at night for a period of time, and the results are recorded. This can show that just the content matters. However, the results could be due to reverse causation; do people who weigh more tend to eat more at night? For now, if you are watching your weight, it is best to lay off the fatty snacks that just seem to taste so much better at night. But as long as you are careful with what you are eating, eating it at 3 AM will not make it worse for you.