Breakfast has long been touted as the king of all meals. In fact, many diet experts have hypothesised it’s the most important meal of the day.
Many of those opinions were sparked by a University of Massachusetts medical school study that found people who routinely skipped breakfast had a significantly higher incidence of obesity than those who ate eggs and an English muffin.
It’s helpful information, but not a black-and-white issue. Just because one meal is good doesn’t mean others are bad.
Your body isn’t on a 24 hour clock.
However, this information changed from the importance of breakfast to eating at night makes you fat.
Whether it’s real life examples of people that enjoy massive late meals or research from scientists all over the world, one thing is clear: when you have your meals does not directly influence weight gain.
Don’t misunderstand that message. If skipping breakfast causes you to binge the rest of the day, then breakfast is the right option for you. Or if more food at night sends you straight to your snack pantry, you want to be mindful of your late night eating.
These are both behavioural triggers and dependent on your reactions to eating patterns. Just as you can be perfectly healthy and skip breakfast every day, you can also be lean, fit, and energised by having your biggest meal at night.
If you are serious about changing your body, freedom (to a certain extent) can go a long way. Fewer rules means less restriction which can improve you adherence in the long run. Consistency and patience are your most important allies.
Your body’s ability to lose and gain weight is about your food quality and quantity, not when you eat.
A study wanted to test whether eating at night caused more weight gain. In the 6-month study, the scientists compared people who ate their largest meal at breakfast to those who ate their largest meal at dinner (8 p.m. or later). The participants who satisfied their late-night munchies not only lost more fat, they also experienced more fullness throughout the entire 6 months and saw more favourable changes to their fat loss hormones.
Compared to the morning eaters, those who ate at night:
- Had less hunger cravings and were more satisfied with their meals
- Lost 11 percent more weight
- Had a 10 percent greater change in abdominal circumference
- Lost a whopping 10.5 percent more body fat
However, do not take this information too far and think you need to gorge every evening. This study just offers evidence that eating late at night isn’t the devil that people once believed.
Should YOU eat late at night?
It is important to understand what works best for your body. Therefore, you must understand your behaviour and relationship with food. Many people we see at SPC eat at night due to boredom and other emotions instead of hunger. During this state they end up consuming more calories than they need for their daily goal (calories still matter when it comes to weight loss).
Evening eaters can typically overeat which leads to fat storage. However, this doesn’t mean you body processes food differently at different times of the day. If one meal turns into three, that’s the problem.
Eating carbohydrates at night can help you sleep. We even wrote an article on it. If you’re staying up late to gorge you and probably limiting how much sleep you have. Too much or too little sleep has been shown to lead to weight gain. In a study, people who slept 5 hours or less each night gained nearly 2.5 times more abdominal fat than those who logged 6 to 7 hours.
Going forward, you have two options:
- If you can control the late night meals and not allow it to keep you up, then feast away, sleep better at night, and watch as you don’t balloon and feel more in control.
- If you know that one big late night meal will open the flood gates and find you in the fridge still snacking at 2 am, then bigger nighttime meals might not be the best idea.
Whatever you choose, know that the best option for you has much more to do about lifestyle preferences and behavioural triggers than the fear of eating at a particular time or consuming a type of food.