Here’s an interesting little tidbit I picked up from a Weekly Spark article about misconceptions that we have about our bodies and doing right by them:
So what makes 7 (or 8 or 9) p.m. a magical cutoff time anyway? The original idea was that people should stop eating about 3 hours before bed, using 10 p.m. as an average bedtime. Although it is a good idea to stop eating a few hours before bed, the reasoning has nothing to do with weight gain; it’s basically an issue of digestion and personal comfort. Going to sleep on a full stomach may make sleeping uncomfortable, as the body is simultaneously shutting down to rest while still exerting energy to digest the food. This may lead to fitful sleep as well as gas and indigestion—but not weight gain. Your body is smart, but it doesn’t know what time it is when you eat. It will metabolize calories eaten after 7 p.m. the same way as it does the calories you eat earlier in the day. They will NOT automatically be stored as fat.
So… what’s the takeaway? The original thought was that eating so close to bedtime would mean that food wouldn’t be broken down properly – which is true, if you’re talking about digestion – and would be stored as fat. That’s not true! If you want to sleep a little better, there should be a relatively wide window between your last meal and your bedtime. Other than that? Sounds like a green light…. but no overeating! 🙂
You should also do some light exercise after dinner. Take the fam and go for a 15 minute walk around the neighborhood or throw the ball in the back yard or something. I don’t believe in eating a full dinner, sitting on the couch vegging out to tv and then hitting the hay.
Eating at night is fine as long as it is reasonable. Correct, your body doesn’t store food as fat just because you go to bed right after. But it is harder to rest properly. What I would say though is that most people consume “unnecessary” calories after 7 or 8. So if that is the case, when you have eaten enough that day, stop. If your meals were light and healthy, then a snack won’t hurt. I have lost weight eating up until 1 hour before bed time and I have gained weight not eating after 6, so just keep in mind that it is not what time you eat, but what are you eating?
I agree with Carolyn. It depends a lot on what you’re eating and how much you’re eating versus the time you’re eating when it comes to weight gain.
Thanks for clearing that up! Great Information.
I need to eat something at bedtime. I take medications and when I don’t eat something my stomach hurts. i usually eat applesauce or a few crackers. I also heard that eating every 4=5 hours keeps the metabolism up. Is this true ?
Yes. Eating small meals every 2-3 hours is an excellent way to boost metabolism. Eating healthy is key of course and don’t forget ton add water throughout the day.
AWESOME!! I needed that clarification.
It is amazing how many people still do not know this
Phew! I saw the title and was like, ohhh boy, here is another rain on my parade. but great news instead! I did stick to the 3 hour rule throughout my weightloss journey for the reasons you’ve mentioned as false. It’s kinda hard to stick to that now and I often felt bad about it, but this makes me happy 🙂
I read this article a while back and ever since I’ve been trying to explain to people there’s no magical weight loss or maintenance because you stop eating after a certain time. The body doesn’t stop burning calories during sleep. I attribute any weight loss because of that to people actually cutting out an unnecessary/extra meal around 9pm to begin with, thus consuming less calories. So if a person’s last meal ends at 7:20 that’s close to 3 hours of them being active so they burn more than they would if they were laying down, I guess. Anyway, Spark People are awesome and I fall asleep easily on a full stomach :(.
I KNEW it! Been telling people this for years. Eating late (especially something heavy) may give you a food hangover, but calories can’t tell time, and don’t say “It’s 9PM – I’m gonna hang out on your hips!” I’m a night owl – if I can’t eat past 7, I’ll go to bed hungry every night, and that’s not happening.
Always wondered why people were hanging on to that foolishness. Now I can direct them here. Thanks!
Exactly, I so agree with you. My rational was always, what if you do not go to sleep at 10 pm, or what if you work all night? How can you then tell me I have to stop eating at 6 or 7? I’ve been eating all night over the past 6 months and still managed to loose nearly 45 lbs. But I will caution the portion sizes and ‘what’ is eaten at night. I try to make healthier choices at night but if I’m hungry you bet you that I am gonna go and find some food to eat!
That is one of the reasons why I couldn’t/didn’t follow Oprah’s plan years ago ago…thanks for this info! Now I can let go of the guilt I sometimes feel when I do get hungry at night!
I knew it!!!! I’ve been telling people this and they just don’t get it. What about healthy people that work overnight? Don’t they have to eat as well? Do you really think that they limit the times that they eat between the hours of 6:00am (when they’re probably finishing their shift or are already home fast asleep) and 7:00p.m.? You’ll lose the weight based on what you eat and your physical activity, not what times you eat. I’m a night owl and sometimes I snack during the night, but over time I’ve learned to snack wisely by picking up a fruits and vegetables like berries and celery or a handful of nuts.
I never really “knew” this but I did know that even though there were times that I ate late it didn’t really “affect” me like people who stopped eating at 7pm. Dang I thought I was special :O). I didn’t really feel guilty about it so now I REALLY don’t have to feel any guilt about it.
All I’ll say it Thank you for the clarification!
Thank you for the tidbit of information. That is the type of added knowledge and information I seek! I always go to bed late and worried about eating late and found that intellectually, I would not eat late for the simple fact that I might get indigestions but I had not idea that I was not gaining extra weight. That is the perception.
Very informative and helpful information.
Thanks for this post. Very informative, and helped a lot. Now, I can relax, because I was trying to eat before 8pm. I can’t always get home in time, and I was thinking my weight loss journey was failing, because at times I would eat after 8pm.
I agree with this article. I know I typically go to bed between 10-10:30pm so I try to eat dinner around 7:30-8 o’clock.
Thank you..thank you…THANK YOU! I’ve always felt this way about eating after a certain hour…your body doesn’t know what time it is. Plain and simple…don’t overeat, no matter what time you eat. BTW, love your blog!
Ugh! I wish I could show this to half of my family (maybe I will *evil eye*). I always say this EXACT thing to them.. yet, when they see me eating at 9pm or 10 or whenever.. they have to say something; and I always say, “I don’t go to sleep early, so it’s not going to be bad!”
I’m a college student.. I don’t have schedules! But I can definitely say that when I don’t eat late, I have a better morning- other wise, I wake up with acid reflux. YUCK.
Thanks for this information. All my struggle with weight I have been told that eating after seven causes you to gain weight. It is such a reprive to know that is not a fact
Thanks for the clarification.
I know I have to watch how late I eat before I go to bed. Otherwise I am out of the bed throughout the night just to go to the bathroom. So I make my cutoff time 3 hours before definitely because of that not about getting fat stored on my body.
Thanks for this information. I have really enjoyed this site. I has helped with a lot of questions I have had for years. I hope to let you know soon how my good health and weightloss is coming along.
This subject has been pressing on my mind. Most of my week day work outs are in the evening because I work and by the time I get home it is already 8PM and not eating dinner is not an options, so I have taken to eating light but I have been concerned about eating after 6 or 7PM. This has most certainly eased my mind.
Thanks. Most nights I don’t get off work until after 7pm, so there you have it…
THANKS FOR THE INFO
I’m sorry, what is the source on this? I think some serious research needs to be done here, you should not start eating at midnight because of one article. In my life, and in the lives of the numerous people I have food-coached, this is a FACT. Granted if it’s a salad, it has minimal impact, but anything else, you will likely see in your face and your stomach in the morning.
Everyone’s body is different, true, but in my experience this is true for 8 out of 10 people. If you don’t digest your food, how do you metabolize it? Food that is not digested or metabolized absolutely stays longer in your intestines and adds to cortisol and the fat does not get burned until the next day, so yeah, you would gain weight son.
No, the digestion process doesn’t stop just because you’re sleeping. Just because your brain is resting doesn’t mean your body stops its metabolic processes. The body just doesn’t work that way.
Some foods take longer to digest than others; using your logic, you would have to have eaten dinner at 3PM in order to ensure the entirety of your meal was digested before bedtime in order to ensure you didn’t put on fat.
It is, plain and simple, a means of calorie restriction. Your own admission that “if it’s a salad, it has minimal impact” only furthers my point; a “salad” is going to have “minimal impact” regardless of what hour its eaten. You shouldn’t be eating at midnight if it doesn’t fit into your caloric needs, but you shouldn’t be eating a snack at 11AM if it doesn’t fit into your plan, either. To imply otherwise is silly. You’re “food coaching” people by using a lazy, uninformed calorie restricting process.
And MY source is a nutrition textbook.
Thanks for the info!!:)
I had a dietitian once try to tell me this. My last meals can often be at 8 or 9pm, but I rarely if ever go to bed before 1am. She insisted and honestly all it did was further throw off my already wacky circadian rhythm because I would wake at 4:30am STARVING!
Once I started making sure my last meal was 2 -3 hours before bedtime, I was much happier and successful with my weight loss.
Additionally when I was ill and could only keep down soup and crackers. I literally ate soup & crackers every 3 hours around the clock. I do think the only reason I saw a weight loss then was because I was only eating soup & crackers with a bit of tea here and there.
i’m glad to hear something i suspected to be true, actually is true. personally, i sleep better if i’m sure to get my evening snack (with a tall glass of water) at least an hour before i go to bed. something about an empty growling stomach keeps me up at night… 😉
I knew it. It would be hard to stop eating after 7p.m., considering that I don’t get off of work until 11p.m.
My life is wonderful with the exception of an extra 35 pounds I’m packing. I am 5’7 bottom heavy 210. My life style make it diffcult to lose weight. I have two jobs and attend school. One job is very demanding(police officer)I never now when or if I will have an opportunity to eat. I have a new wardrobe in size 12 in my closet. Im in14s some are a little tight.
When I hit a LONG stall years ago, I stopped eating around 7 and was able to lose the rest of my weight. Myth or not, it worked for me.
…because, like I said, it’s mere calorie restriction. You need to understand that, in the event that you start gaining weight ANYWAY long AFTER you’ve implemented your “no eating after 7” rule.
I go to the gym after work. Between U-Jam, Zumba and Body Pump where I get out at 7:30 soaking wet, I have to eat something. I try to keep it veggies and protein but if I don’t eat, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night w/my stomach growling and starving.
I struggle with this one. I go to school at night, and get out at 10. Most nights, I don’t go to sleep until 3 am, and by then I’m so hungry that I can’t sleep. Hmmm…Maybe I should try more water or a protein shake before bed. Either way, it’s still a challenge for me.
How about alcohol I like a drink in the evening along with crisps and chocolate. I have given them all up after 7pm. Can cope without the snacks but miss my relaxing drink.
Have you considered other kinds of “relaxing drinks?”
Thank you Jesus! I hate going to bed hungry. Since I’m eating lighter & healthier now, I’m good!
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