If you are on a weight loss journey you’ve probably heard that eating past a certain time of night will be detrimental to your efforts. Eating at night, particularly before bed, has received considerable attention as an approach to weight loss and as a strategy to improve overall health and body composition. One of the questions we get asked over and over again is what time of evening a person should stop eating in order to effectively lose weight. The simple answer is: it doesn’t matter.
Weight gain and weight loss come down to a simple math equation: calories in vs. calories out. The timing of your meals and snacks does not directly impact your weight. What matters is how many calories you eat compared to how many calories you burn.
That being said, people eat in the evening for a number of different reasons including, boredom, stress, loneliness or to satisfy a craving; and snacks at this time of the day tend to be less controlled. Nighttime eating tends to occur in front of the television or the computer and is often mindless. It is not difficult to eat an entire bag of chips or box of cookies before realizing it when you are distracted. This can lead to eating more calories than you need and can prevent you from losing weight or result in weight gain. There is nothing wrong with having a snack in the evening but if you are trying to manage your weight and/or improve your health it’s a good idea to plan your evening snack, portion it out and eat mindfully without distractions.
The bottom line is that calories are calories regardless of what time of day you consume them and weight loss is simply a result of consuming fewer calories than you burn.