Put the midnight snack down!


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.


7 thoughts on “Put the midnight snack down!

  1. Andrea Marie Linn

    I agree with the study. If you crave that piece of chocolate cake or a bowl of ice cream of course it will stick in your stomach and turn into fat. Your body is not doing any physical activity while you are sleeping therefore the high amount of calories you just took will not be burned off. In Life Science article ( http://www.livescience.com/35842-best-time-to-stop-eating.html ), they gave ways that will help you lose that craving: brushing your teeth, taking a break before you start cleaning up, and eating a substantial afternoon snack. I would be interesting to see if a study could be done to find out why people choose what they choose as their midnight snack and what in the brain triggers this motion. Are there certain age groups that go for more of an unhealthy snack than another? Also, correlation does not mean causation. Just because you eat late doesn’t mean you’ll gain weight and vise versa.

  2. Jiang Shan

    I often thought that eating late at night is bad for you because we often go to bed right after eating and the lack of movement keeps the fat inside our body. After reading your blog I realized that I’ve been wrong this whole time, movement doesn’t matter, instead, the food we chooses to eat matters. However, one question came to my mind when I read this. When I visited Spain a few years ago, I learned that people there usually start eating dinner around 9pm and ends around 11pm to 12am or sometimes later. Since they are eating dinner, I’m assuming most people will consume foods that are high in calories. If this happens, then doesn’t it mean most people in Spain would gain weight and be fat? However, after checking many websites on overweight countries, I found United States on almost all of the websites but not Spain. So I guess the question I’m asking is why aren’t the overall population in Spain increasing in weight?

  3. Kelli Nicole Ross

    This is interesting because I often hear a lot about eating at night being bad for you, but I wonder if it’s more than what you eat that makes a difference for weight gain. I always wondered how your body knows what time it is and how it need to reacts to food at those points. If calories are the same at any point at which you intake them, could it possibly be what you eat too close to the end of your physical day that affects your weight rather than what you eat and how late you eat it? Or is your body conditioned to need less food at night because of your regular schedule? I found a few articles online that talk about this here –> http://www.intense-workout.com/eating_late.html and here —>http://www.hungryhealthyhappy.com/night-time-eating-should-you-eat-after-6pm/.

  4. Olivia Diane Talbot

    Sorry, I forgot to add a link! http://nutritiondata.self.com/tools/calories-burned Is a site where a person can calculate how many calories they burn a day. The calculator also takes into account the amount of exercise the person performed. This is where I found the numbers, burning 2300 calories a day for a 5’6 person weighing 180 lbs.

  5. Alyssa Marie Gregory

    Interesting blog post. I think the main point people make when they say that eating late in unhealthy is the idea that you will not have the opportunity to burn it off as you would if you ate at around noon and still had some daily errands to run. But then again what if during the day you ate a lot and then still sat down and laid in bed, then it would make no difference what time you ate. And the notion that a 100 calories snack is still a 100 calories snack would certainly make sense. Scientifically and statistically , if we eat more calories than we burn we will gain weight. In this case of course if we sit after we eat we will be still and not burn any calories. To avoid this I think our best bet would be to stay active and if you feel you ate more than you should’ve maybe we should hit the gym. While your blog was informative it would’ve been nice to have a link to the article you often referred to. In the end Andrew is always right in class talks when he says correlation doesn’t equal causation because in this case that is very true. Just because you eat late does not mean it can all attribute to weight gain. But if we are sticking to the idea that eating late isn’t good for you(as many experienced doctors today suggest) here is a link of 5 foods you should stay away from if you do choose to eat late http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/late-night-eating-foods-avoid-eating-bedtime

  6. Olivia Diane Talbot

    I think a big point in this blog post. If you eat a 100 calorie snack 30 minutes before you go to bed, you have no time to burn it off by even doing daily activities. If you eat a 100 calorie snack 2 hours before going to bed, you are still burning calories through your daily routine. Although what we eat is a very big factor, I think I time relates to weight gain in a big way. Pretty much everything we eat contains calories, and the closer to bed time we eat them, the less time we have to burn them off. A 5’6 18 year old female burns about 2300 calories a day, not including exercise. We burn calories throughout the day just doing our daily activities and eating closer to bed time is not helping a person when they want to lose weight. Love this post though, just wished you touched upon the fact that we naturally burn calories and time is a huge factor.

  7. Chloe Atherton Cullen

    Recently I also wrote about a blog post about late night eating, and I’ll include the link at the end if you’re really interested! In my research I found an experiment that studied mice and the effects of late night eating (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/06/why-late-night-snacking-is-bad-for-you/259085/). Some groups of mice were given 24 hour access to either highly-fatty foods or average-calorie foods, and two other groups of mice were given the same foods for only 8 hours. Mice with 24-hour access had more health problems, including weight gain, compared to the mice with restricted access. Supposedly, the body has a cycle of digesting, and eating at night can disrupt this.


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