We get asked this question all the time. It's on everyone's minds. But, when someone asks us this question, the first thing we assume is that you're really asking if eating late in the evening makes you fat. Well.....not exactly. Your metabolism does begin to slow down at night as your body prepares for bedtime rituals and sweet slumber. But, even though your body begins to slow down in the evenings, that doesn't mean you should starve yourself because it may be too late at night to eat. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about eating late in the evening:
1. Post-Workout Meal: Let's say you don't get off work till 6pm and you decide to run a few errands before hitting the gym. By the time you get to the gym it's 7 or 8 o'clock at night. You workout for about an hour or so, and you head home to take a nice relaxing shower and get ready for bed. No matter what time of the day or night, if you workout, the best thing to do is feed your starving muscles and energy deprived body. Whether it's 9 at night or even midnight, always try to consume a post-workout meal within an one hour or less of working out. That is the time when your body is in need of food to help feed your Glycogen depleted muscles. By restoring your Gylcogen levels, you will need to consume an adequate amount of protein and carbs to help repair and feed your muscles. By the time you consume your late night post-workout meal and begin getting ready for bed, your body is still trying to wind down from a late night workout so you're still burning calories. Even while you're sleeping, you're still burning calories.
2. Calories in vs. Calories out: If you are trying to lose fat and worried about eating late in the evening, the one major factor to worry about is calories in vs. calories out. If you've already consumed the majority of your calories for the day, then eating late in the evening would not benefit you or your fat loss, as you are adding more calories than is required for you body. But, if you haven't consumed all of your calories for the day and you have a little extra to spare or you even planned your last meal of the day, then go for it! Your body needs those calories to help your body keep burning the fuel you give it. This still applies to your Post-Workout Meal too. If you've planned your post-workout meal within good judgement and calculations and it's included in your daily calories for the day.....then consume it. But, if you've already used up or exceeded your calories for the day, then you need to be very cautious what you bring in late at night. Like I said, calories in vs. calories out.
3. Cravings: These hit us the hardest later in the evenings. Cravings can come out of nowhere and BAM! you're hit with an ice cream craving or you begin to hanker for some chocolate. Everybody deals with cravings. This is where you need to stick to your guns and practice your willpower. Unless something sweet is designed for your Post-Workout Meal and it is already calculated into your meals and calories for the day, then you probably shouldn't eat it. And, if you don't workout in the evenings, it's best to stay away from high calorie sugar loaded foods at night, since these will spike your insulin levels and it'll be very hard to burn those unwanted calories. To be more blunt, if you workout late at night, you can have something sweet. If you don't workout at night, don't eat anything sweet.
4. When in doubt: If you've already consumed your calories for the day and you become extremely hungry or a late night craving hits ya, when in doubt, drink a protein shake or eat some fibrous veggies. A protein packed snack that is low in calories or a few celery sticks or a bowl of broccoli to get rid of hunger pains is the key. But, all things in moderation. This doesn't give you a free pass to eat 5 protein shakes or a huge chicken breast, because technically you're still increasing calories when you add these types of food late at night. Be responsible and mindful.Be aware what you're are consuming as well as HOW MUCH you are consuming. Even the foods that are healthy for you can give you unwanted calories to your day.