Even though many diets will try to sell you on this idea, the truth is that excess calories — no matter what time of the day — will lead to weight gain. So if you want to lose weight you need to consume or burn a deficit of calories. Your body metabolizes food the same way all throughout the day and food eaten after 6 p.m. does not automatically turn into stored fat.
However, going to sleep on a full stomach may cause discomfort and potentially less restful sleep. People who tend to sleep less and go to bed later report more fitful sleeping habits typically. These late night people consume more calories than people who get enough rest and go to bed early. People who stay up later often report having more late night snacking.
A potential consideration to stopping eating earlier (after you consume a quality dinner) is that it can help you intentionally limit calories. It can be a good idea for people who have a bad habit of mindless snacking in the evening on calorically dense foods that are not adding value to your diet. Your overall intake for the day matters the most, so if you know you enjoy evening snacking try to have some carrot sticks or cucumber slices readily available; or factor in a snack when planning your day.
The British Journal of Nutrition published an article in December 2013 that looked into the outcomes of young men when there was a restriction of nighttime eating. What they found in this study was that by limiting night time eating, these young men had an overall reduced energy intake.
Setting a limit to how late you eat food can be very hard, especially with seasonal changes where daylight lasts longer. Your body’s natural cycle is tied to daylight and nighttime but you can combat the urges for late night eating by making sure your meals and snacks combine healthy fats, whole grains and protein sources.
So make a decision to combat this late night urge to consume excessive calories, by focusing on getting more rest. Our bodies truly work best by functioning on high-quality sleep and getting enough nutrient dense foods.