The idea that it is better to eat during the first hours of the day and eat less at night is widespread. Supposedly, eating late would interfere with fat loss and produce unwanted weight gain. This myth could be summarized with a well-known phrase: “eat breakfast like a King, eat like a Queen and dine like a beggar”.
Breakfast, as the most important meal of the day and dinner as “dangerous” food. How many times have you heard that a lot of dinner will make you gain weight? How many times have you heard that if you take carbohydrates at night “will not be spent” and will “become fat”?
Is there any evidence that supports these theories? Let’s review what science says about it. As always, they will be controlled studies , that is, those that assure that the results are not deviated by perceptions, prejudices or other factors that may alter the results and that, in addition, have been carried out for long periods of time in groups numerous.
Science talks: eating carbohydrates at night does not make you fat
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel) wanted to test whether eating more at night made you gain more weight. The results? It would not be so surprising if the idea that eating at night will make you fatten out was not so widespread.
During 6 months, 78 obese individuals were divided into two groups. The first group ingested the carbohydrates distributed throughout the day, while the second ingested them at night (20.00 or later). Groups had the same diet, 1300-1500 kcal (45-50% carbohydrates, 30-35% fat, and 20% protein), however, the first group took the carbohydrates distributed throughout the day and the second took at least 170 g of carbohydrates during dinner.
The results? Those whose nighttime appetite was satisfied lost more fat , felt less hungry and obtained favorable hormonal changes (LDL, HDL, CRP, TNF-α and IL-6).
- Those who ate more carbohydrates at night felt more “full” and satisfied.
- The participants of group 1 lost on average 9 kg and 5% body fat, however, those in group 2 (who took carbohydrates at night) lost on average 11 kg and 7% body fat.
- Group 2 reduced 10% more abdominal circumference.
Why eating carbohydrates at night does not make you fat?
The Leptin is also known as the “hunger hormone” and communicates our brain when the body has sufficient energy stored in adipocytes (adipose tissue) for metabolic processes. When this hormone exceeds a threshold (probably genetically determined), your brain detects that you have enough energy. However, when leptin levels are below that threshold, your brain stimulates the vagus nerve, which produces the sensation of hunger and will consume more energy to raise leptin levels.
With typical meal times, leptin secretion levels fall during the day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with its lowest point occurring at 1:00 p.m. However, they increase from 4:00 pm to reach its highest point at 1:00 am. What does this mean? That the hormone responsible for satiety is at its highest level while you sleep.
The hypothesis that leads to this study is that consuming more carbohydrates at night could modify the typical pattern of leptin segregation, as has been observed in the Muslim population during Ramadan. The objective of this study was to produce higher concentrations of leptin during the day (mainly during the morning) to increase satiety, helping to stay within the diet and not to be hungry.
You should keep in mind that leptin acts with a delay to the intake of carbohydrates, if you take them just before going to sleep; you will not experience the peak of leptin until you wake up in the morning. That is, carbohydrates at night will help you feel fuller during the day.
Eating at night is not bad
Moreover, they can become good as we have seen in the previous study as it will help you to stay satisfied and without hunger during the day.
“Your body does not store fat more easily during the night than during the rest of the day” – Alan Aragon.
You will gain weight will depend mainly on what you eat and how much you eat, however, not when you eat it. Your body is not a watch that loses or suddenly gains weight after 24 hours.
In addition, it is important to remember the social importance of eating at night. Most social events, such as events, work parties, appointments and family gatherings occur at night times. If your diet is based on stopping eating at night, and this has an important social and emotional impact, it may be the best time to change your diet.
However, control what you eat at night! If you take more calories than you should throughout the day, you will inevitably gain weight.