“Is it true that if you eat late at night it will all turn to fat?” I get this question on a daily basis. Seriously. Many believe this is proven—if you eat and then go right to bed everything will turn to fat. I have clients beat themselves up over this because they come home from a long day at work, exhausted, get some dinner and then go to bed worrying that they are going to gain 5 pounds while they sleep.

So what do you think?

Well, it all comes down to portion size and providing your body with what it needs. Many people have a cut off point, for example they do not eat after 8pm, but many of my clients do not come home from work until 8pm so what is one to do?

The Schedule:
You want to eat within an hour of waking and every 3-4 hours thereafter. If you wake up at 6am and do not go to bed until 11pm or midnight you may need to eat at 8pm or 9pm. It depends on you and your body.

Portion Size:
Remember, your calories should be spread out evenly over the day. So if you are trying to hit 2000 calories a day over 5 meals, then even if you eat dinner at 8 or 9pm it should not be bigger than 400 calories. It should also be a balanced meal with protein and carbs present.

Cardio Crazy:
If you are training for an endurance event and working out hard for over an hour on a regular basis you may need that late night meal to get you to bed. You know what I am talking about….you feel ravenous at 9pm because your metabolism is going strong. It would be appropriate to eat a small, balanced nighttime snack

Emotional Eaters:

Mindless eating can get you into trouble. If you ate a balanced dinner, but are still hungry due to boredom, emotions and/or stress, eating late would not be appropriate. Drink some herbal tea, do some stretches, consider meditation and find a way to relax without the calories.

Digestively Challenged:
You know who you are…I am one of you! We are little sensitive when it comes to digesting food so it may not be wise to eat right before bed because your GI tract just cannot handle it. Find what foods cause triggers and how much time you need before going to bed to prevent a stomach ache.

So, what is the truth? If every night you eat 80% of your daily calories and then head off to bed, you will likely gain weight. However, it is not due to the fact that you ate late, it is because you ate 80% of your calories at one meal! Eat on a schedule and keep your portion sizes in check. No need to believe in urban legends…focus on you!