Does Eating at Night Make You Fat?

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs Harbolic, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

Does eating later in the day really cause you to gain weight? At what time of the day should I stop eating?

Doctor's response

It is possible to gain weight by eating later in the day, but not for the reason that most people think. You have a set number of calories that your body needs to maintain your current weight. If you stay within your calorie requirements, your weight will remain the same. When you take in more calories than your body needs, you gain weight. This will happen regardless of when you consume those calories. Let's say that you can eat 2,000 calories a day and your weight remains the same. If you consumed extra calories at any time throughout the day, you will gain weight from those calories, not from the time of day that you consumed them. The reason that people say that we gain weight from eating at night is because most people consume a lot of calories at this time. Many studies have showed that people report that the hardest time of day for controlling their food intake is between dinner and bedtime. So, the reason you would gain from eating at this time is because you ate too many calories, not because your body doesn't process them in the same way.

If you find that you are eating a lot in the evening, it may be beneficial to select a time to stop eating and to set a plan for what you will eat. Take a look at what time you have dinner and decide how much food is reasonable for you to have between then and bedtime. Select the food(s) that you will be allowed to have and when you will have them. The more that you plan ahead for this, the easier it will be to do.

Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine


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Reviewed on 7/26/2017