by GameChanger Strength & Nutrition Coach Rob Riccobono
Does eating food at night make you gain fat? This is a popular trope you may have heard about fat gain. You’ll hear it from friends, family, and doctors on television. It was something I was always told by my family when I was growing up.
Fortunately, this fear is a myth. There are multiple misconceptions that perpetuate this fear:
1. When you eat and then lie down, the food will literally sit in your stomach and remain there as body fat.
While this reasoning might make sense in our heads, it’s simply not how the body operates. Your food is digested and broken down (or excreted), no matter what time of day. Think about it logically: if all the food you ate in your lifetime at night simply “sat” in your stomach, that would be a lot of food you’d be storing there!
When you sleep, your body doesn’t shut down it’s processes. Your eyes are closed and you aren’t physically moving, but your body is still doing everything it needs to do.
2. If you sleep after you eat, you cannot burn off the calories from that food.
Remember this: the time of day that you eat and exercise doesn’t determine your body weight and composition. The most important thing is the TOTAL SUM of your activity and overall food intake. Your body is affected by your total calories consumed vs. your total calories burned, and it doesn’t matter in what order these events occur. For example, if you were to have a very active day and burn a ton of calories, and then eat before going to bed, those calories have already been accounted for through your earlier exercise. If your activity and food is more spread out- say sporadically throughout the day your burn 2,000 calories and eat 2,000 calories total at multiple meals, you’ll maintain your body weight. Think back to your middle school education with the order of operations in math! 1+2+3-2-1 gives you the same answer as 3-2-1+1+2. The order is irrelevant.
Your body is still functioning at night time and can handle its normal processes. In fact when you sleep, you’re still burning calories! Eating food at night won’t cause fat gain- eating too much for the entire day will. Don’t sweat the small stuff.