HomedietWill I Gain Weight From Eating Late?

Will I Gain Weight From Eating Late?

Will I Gain Weight If I Eat Late? Food Timing and Weight Gain

Can eating late make you gain weight? Could eating a heavy meal after a certain time of night make you fat? If you are eating within the constraints of your energy requirements, for years I would have said absolutely not and that eating late at night in and of itself can’t make you gain weight. However, given my experience helping people lose weight over the past three decades, my answer has changed since then as you might indeed gain weight from eating late depending on several factors. Earlier in my career, I often advised my clients that eating late at night was not a factor in weight gain as long they stuck to their diet and didn’t overeat. Given the laws of thermodynamics, if you consume more calories that your body needs, you will gain weight. Take in less calories than your body uses for the day and you will lose weight. A simple concept, and with this in mind, the timing of your meals shouldn’t make a difference in whether you gain or lose weight. Unfortunately, in the real world, things are never so simple and this was not always my experience. Clients who worked late night shifts, such as doctors, nurses, businessmen and women who needed to be in constant communication with others in different time zones and those who simply kept odd waking hours all had a harder time losing weight compared to those who kept regular hours, even when they ate consistently less than their daily energy requirements. Another curious group were my clients who ate relatively little, (and often slightly less than their daily energy requirements), and never lost weight in the same predictable pattern as everyone else. People in that group tended to have one or sometimes two meals a day and almost always skipped breakfast. And yet when all of them started having breakfast at a regular hour and eating more food (and calories) overall but spread out over the course of the day, they lost weight just as effectively as my clients who ate on a regular schedule. Even though they were consuming more calories than they were before! The math didn’t make sense and it did seem to suggest that eating meals later in the day might have some effect on weight loss and weight gain. In this article we will look at the recent scientific findings that suggest that food timing does indeed play a role in weight loss and weight gain. As always thank you for reading and do be sure to share this article with anyone who you think it will benefit.

Before we go any further it is important to note that overeating high calorie processed foods will ALWAYS lead to weight gain if you overeat and consume more calories that your body needs. The low satiety levels of highly processed foods and the effects of sugars, fats and salt in stimulating our desire to keep on eating can makes it very easy to overshoot your daily energy needs. A fact that food manufacturers bank on as the entire processed food industry is based on the idea of doing whatever it takes to make you eat more than you should. (See my article on The Economics of Obesity). Combine this with the all too common practice of rewarding yourself with “comfort food”  after a hard and stressful day as a coping mechanism, and you unfortunately have the perfect environment for gaining weight. This isn’t anything new, as night time binge eating has always been identified as a clear causative factor in weight gain, but what is new is the findings that consuming a lot of calories later in the day will make you gain MORE weight if you didn’t eat that much during the day. And that this eating pattern can predispose you to a higher risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. [1,2]

TAKE AWAY POINT: Higher calorie intakes later in the day can make you gain weight if you didn’t eat regular meals spaced out during the day and predispose you to metabolic related diseases. Which is somewhat ironic, as having regularly spaced out meals makes it LESS likely that you will have higher calorie intakes later in the day!

How The Longer Hours Of Modern Living Can Make Us Fatter

food timing and weight loss- weight gain from eating at night
In modern times, we are awake later than we were in times past which affects our eating habits and metabolism as well.

Like every organism on Earth, we are products of our natural environment, with systems intimately tied to the diurnal rhythms of the Earth’s rotation around that giant ball of hot plasma that we call the Sun. For the past billion years, the biochemistry of every creature on Earth has been selected in some form in accordance to the rising and setting of the Sun, ours included.[4,5,6] As our behavior, physiology and biochemistry are all adaptations to the daily cycle of our planet’s movement around the sun. Yet, most of us in developed countries live in a somewhat unnatural environment as our lives no longer revolve around the apparent passage of the sun across the sky, as we do not keep the same hours as populations living in non industrialized settings that are more in tune with our ancestral heritage. Thanks largely in part to Thomas Edison’s inventions and improvements in housing we are no longer huddled over a flame for light after sunset. The advent of electricity meant that we were no longer bound to the rotation of our planet for cues on when to sleep or to be active as we now have light everywhere on demand. Free of these constraints, people in industrialized countries are awake later, eat later and sleep later than ever before in human history.[7] Our artificial extension of the day allows us to work longer and spend more time doing what we want to do without being obliged to go to bed shortly after dark. Unfortunately, like all of our technological advancements, there is a price, and perhaps a hefty one that we pay as a result. Our world has rapidly changed while our bodies are still the same, and adapted for the most part to move during the day and sleep during the night. Modern life is proving to us over and over that our self imposed changes to long established biological patterns can wreak havoc on our health. Studies conclusively show that cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, depression and other ailments are far more common among those who do not have regular sleeping habits.[8,9,10] Given these findings it stand to reason that research would show that irregular timing of our meals has a significant impact in weight regulation.[1]

How Eating Late Can Mess Up Your Internal Clocks And Make You Gain Weight

Circadian rhythms and weight loss and weight gain
By National Institute of General Medical Sciences (Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

All Earth-bound organisms, plants, including insects, birds reptiles and mammals have built in circadian ‘clocks’ that operate in anticipation of changes in the environment brought on by the rising and setting of the sun.[11] Initially it was thought that time of day regulation was the role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)- an area of the brain populated by a large number of ‘mini clocks’ called circadian oscillator cells. [12,13,14] Cells that act kind of like a centralized timekeeper and they oversee our body’s 24 hour based rhythms. [12,13,14] However, scientists have since discovered that circadian oscillator cells also exist in other regions of the brain and in most, if not all peripheral organs and tissues. That includes the liver, kidneys, pancreas, gut, muscle tissue and interestingly enough- fat cells! [1,3,15,16,17,18] Now the SCN plays a special role within this system of oscillator cells as it determines the time of day by measuring the amount of light entering special cells in your retina. These cues are called zeitgebers and circadian oscillator cells in other parts of the body rely on other zeitgebers to determine time such as meal timing and food availability. [19,20,21] It used to be that these cues were all the same, as humans on average will eat more during day and less at night in our natural environments, but this is no longer the case. So when we consume high calorie meals later in the day, our brains are receiving a signal from one zeitgeber (light) saying it is dark outside and thus time to prepare for and sleep whereas another zeitgeber (food intake) is saying it is time to be active and awake.[2,12] Those conflicting signals appear to deregulate metabolism and may be one of the reasons why shift workers and individuals with later schedules have higher rates of metabolic related disease and obesity.

TAKE AWAY POINT: Every cell and every process in our bodies are linked to our ancestral habits of being active during the day and inactive during the night and any change to that pattern can have about negative health impact. 

Food Timing And Weight Loss- How Eating At The Wrong Time Makes You Gain Weight

food timing and weight gain- eating late makes you gain weight

Adipose (fat) tissue also have circadian oscillator cells with their own time sensitive rhythm of accumulation (storing fat) and mobilization (burning fat) called temporal compartmentalization. When you are sleeping, your body tends to burn fat and while you are awake your body tends to store fat. Thanks in part to time based oscillators in the liver that controls whether your body is going to use glucose or fat as an energy source. [22,23,24]  Genes responsible for using sugars as the body’s primary fuel source (PFKFB3, FUK, MPI and PFKM) have high expression levels in the morning and drop in the afternoon through the evening.[22] On the other hand, what are referred to as ‘fuel accumulation’ genes (HMGCR, HMGSC1), that store fat have low levels in the morning and increase as the day goes on.[22] (See also my article When Is The Best Time To Workout AM vs PM)

TAKE AWAY POINT: Your body burns fat when sleeping as an energy source and glucose when you are awake. Disrupt the natural sleep/wake time based on daylight hours and you can end up storing fat when you should be burning it.

The time you eat also affects whether you will lose weight or gain weight, even when you are ingesting less or just enough calories for your body to remain in energy balance. A groundbreaking Spanish study set out to determine whether the timing of food intake influences the success of a weight loss focused diet and researchers were also able to examine genetic, physiological and behavioral factors that may have affected the results. 420 overweight men and women following a clinically supervised weight loss diet were monitored for 20 weeks, and the results were quite surprising. Those who ate their meals later in the day lost significantly LESS weight than those who ate their main meals earlier in the day, even though they all ate followed the same diet with the same proportions of protein, fats and carbohydrates based on their individual calculated energy expenditures.[1]

This was the first human study to observe this occurrence after many animal studies had similar findings. Research with mice, who are nocturnal by nature and have a time system that is the exact reverse of ours as they are active mainly at night and sleep during the day, show that when two groups of mice with identical activity levels are fed exactly the same amount of calories at different times there are significant differences in weight gain. Mice fed during the day when they would ordinarily be asleep gained weight and increased their body fat, while those fed at night in keeping with their normal biorhythms did not gain any weight. [2,25,26,27] An indication that the time food is consumed is a factor responsible for weight gain independent of calorie intake.[1]

TAKE AWAY POINT: It’s not just what you eat and how much you eat, but it’s also when you eat that determines whether you might lose or gain weight. 

Food Timing And Weight Gain: The Effects of Eating Mostly At Night

Eating late weight gain brain functions
We still don’t know exactly why people gain weight from eating more at later hours but researchers believe it may have something to do with our inner biological clocks.

The much higher incidence of obesity among shift workers compared to day workers with the same energy intakes and activity levels[41] has always been clear evidence that food timing is also important for humans. Along with the many studies that find increased obesity levels among non-breakfast eaters compared to those who regularly eat breakfast and also among and those diagnosed with night eating syndrome.[28,29] It was initially thought that weight gain associated with night time eating was due to a tendency to gravitate towards more high calorie processed foods, which are exceptionally easy to overeat and so increase the likelihood of eating more than you should and consequently gaining weight.[30,31,32] However, we now know that overeating may not necessarily be the problem as these studies demonstrate that weight gain can occur independent of energy intake if meals are predominantly eaten later in the day.

Eating Late & Weight Gain- Underlying Mechanisms In Our Genes

There many other theories as to why there is link between weight gain and meal timing. It was thought that changes in levels of hormones responsible for making you feel full or satisfied after a meal, (leptin and ghrelin), may have been responsible, possibly as a result of a decoupling from the body’s light based inner clock. [33,34] But in the Spanish study, blood tests showed no differences in satiety-related hormone levels between the early eaters and the late eaters. Lack of sleep has also been assumed to be a possible causative factor as many studies show associations between short sleep duration and risk of obesity and impaired weight loss.[35,36,37] However, in the Spanish study even though the late eaters went to bed later than early eaters there were no real differences in sleep duration or reported quality between the two groups. [1] Other animal and human studies have also failed to find associations with decreased sleep and weight gain[2,38] but what researchers did find were differences in a very time sensitive gene called CLOCK.

CLOCK stands for Circadian Locomotor Output Cycles Kaput (who ever said scientists don’t have a sense of humor) and it’s one of the genes found in mammals that are responsible for the persistence and duration of our body’s daily rhythms along with another transcription factor called BMAL1. You can think of these genes as the driving forces behind the circadian oscillator cells found in the SCN and peripheral organ tissues that we mentioned earlier. In the Spanish study, there was a higher occurrence of a variation in the CLOCK gene (called rs4580704) among those who ate later in the day- a variation that seems to manifest as a result of irregular food timing. Interestingly enough, other studies have associated this particular genetic mutation with increased susceptibility to obesity and metabolic disease.[39,40] Other variations (called polymorphisms) in the CLOCK gene have also been linked with increased insomnia, difficulty losing weight and increased depressive episodes among those with bipolar disorders.[41,42,43] however this study was the first to report an association between CLOCK gene variations and the timing of food intake.

Practical Meal Timing Tips For Preventing Weight Gain
eating late weight loss tips
Some tips to prevent weight gain by properly timing your meals

The most significant take away from this study was that those who had lunch as their largest meal of the day (in the Mediterranean breakfast is usually small and lunch is the main meal) were the ones with the greatest amount of weight loss.[1] Eating a large lunch- which represented for the participants in this study, as much as 40% of their daily energy intake appears to reset the mini clocks in our organs either indirectly or through changes in timing relative to other meals during the day.[1] Weight loss differences in this study did not hinge on what time dinner or breakfast was eaten- just lunch, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that eating an early lunch is the only way to optimize weight loss. Researchers observed that the late lunch eaters also had a far higher tendency to have skipped breakfast or to have had a smaller than usual breakfast. Such a long time lapse between the first meal of the day and lunch seems to create a prolonged semi-fasted state and lowers blood sugar levels- which can have a negative effect on glucose metabolism and could have contributed to the difference in weight loss. Thus underlining the wisdom of having regular meals starting with a good breakfast to maintain adequate glucose metabolism. For while the study did not look at a population where eating a large breakfast is a common practice, the fact that most of the late eaters did not eat breakfast and the many studies that do verify a link between the consumption of a high protein, high fiber, carbohydrate breakfast with increased success in weight loss and lower incidence of obesity[44] leaves little room for doubt that eating breakfast is an important part of the equation.

So what weight loss and weight gain preventative recommendations can we glean from these new studies and advances in molecular biology? There are several:

Recommendations for Not Gaining Weight From Eating Late:

  • Eat the majority of your calories earlier in the day.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.
  • Eat meals at regularly spaced intervals the same time everyday instead of erratically.
  • Avoid high calorie meals later in the day.
  • Try to keep a schedule that makes it less likely that you will be eating later in the day.

In spite of our desire to extend our days there is in fact a genetically hardwired ‘wrong time’ to eat as we are unquestionably maladapted to eating at night. Taking this into consideration anyone attempting to lose weight or prevent weight gain and or achieve optimal health would do well to ensure that they ate most of their calories earlier in the day. My own experience with my clients undergoing extreme weight loss (50lbs-110lbs) is observational at best but they all consumed most of their calories earlier in the day following my recommendation to ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper’ with an additional directive to turn in early and not to eat too late at night. I hope this article helped highlight the importance of meal timing with regards to weight loss and maintaining a healthy body weight and while some of the lessons may not be convenient for many of us- they are important nonetheless as we are very much still creatures intimately tied to the rotation of the Earth. Thanks as always for reading.

High Intensity Bodyweight Training: Ballistic Pushups & Dips!

This was a tough one!

Starts out with ballistic push ups (like clap pushups but without the clap as my wrist is still not 100%) nonstop for 20 reps, then all out on dips for 10 reps.

To say it was painful would be an understatement, but you just have to push through and keep on going.

Still training, hope you are too and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #chestday #chesttraining #naturalbodybuildingtips #pushups #dips #bodyweighttraining #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #calesthenics

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Kevin's Unconventional Biceps Training- 3-6 Minutes a Week!

In this video I go over my biceps training using the Naturally Intense High Intensity Training protocols that helped me go from having arms measuring 11.5 to 12 inches to 18 inches drug free!

It's an unconventional approach for certain, but it's one that's helped my arms grow and the hundreds of men and women I have trained over the past 30 plus years.

Now, my success isn't due to being genetically gifted, as it took me the better part of 11 years to get my arms up to those measurements.

Which is significant as it works and been been proven time and time again to work for the average man or woman trying to grow their arms without drugs.

It's my hope that these high intensity training protocols can help you as much as they helped me!

Click on my bio link to see the full video on my YouTube channel and thanks as always for taking the time to look at my work!!! Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #armworkout #bicepsworkout #naturalbodybuildingtips #biceps #armtraining #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #barbellcurls

55 8

At the Lancaster Classic Day 2 Elimination Rounds Against European Champion, and World Record Holder Leo Pettersen @leo_barebow_archer

I don't talk much about it but I'm also a competitive barebow archer (surprise!) and last Saturday I had the honor of making it to Day 2 at the Lancaster Archery Classic in the Barebow Division, as I made the top 64 out of 267 competitors and had a chance to shoot with some of the greatest barebow shooters on the planet!

I didn't make it past Leo, but it was a real rush to be there and a huge thanks to my coach, Joe MyGlyn @prolinearchery for helping me get there.

Thanks as well to my good friend @sean_chan33 for all of his help from the very start, to my line buddy Aaron Shea for taking the shot and showing up to support!

My thanks as well to rob_kaufhold for putting on and promoting one of the best archery tournaments on earth!

Thanks also to to everyone who took the time to send a supporting word and I am looking forward to next year!!! #naturallyintense #barebow

#lancasterclassic #lancasterarcheryclassic2024 #lancasterarchery #archery #fitover40 #barebowrecurve #targetarchery

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Dumbo, Brooklyn circa 2004

This shot was taken as part of the promotion for my Naturally Intense DVD and was about a year after my last bodybuilding competition.

It was a grueling photoshoot.

We started at about 10 am and finished around 4pm and I was completely spent, but the more we shot the sharper I looked, so we kept on going.

It's nice to look back from time to time and as tired as I was, we all had a blast!

My thanks to @stephanie_corne_artwork, @https://pulse.ly/itgnag2dec and @ftaz1 for taking the shots!!!

Thanks for watching and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #throwback #fifthavenuegym #5thavenuegym #drugfreebodybuilding #naturalbodybuildinglifestyle #gymlife #gymmotivation #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #bodybuilding #blackandwhite #instablackandwhite #bnw

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Can You Build An Impressive Physique Training Only At Home?


I stopped training in commercial gyms as of March 2020 and have been training at home ever since.

Initially I was admittedly worried that I might lose some of my gains or not make as much progress, but that certainly wasn't the case.

I've consistently continued to improve with my high intensity workouts and muscles have no idea where they are training.

As long as the criteria of adequate intensity and overload are met, there will be an adaptive response and your muscles will get bigger and stronger.

So don't worry at all about where you train, focus instead of what will be the best way for you to always be training!

Thanks for watching and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

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Kevin's Three Day Training Spilt!

For the past 33 years I have trained three times a week with Naturally Intense High Intensity Training workouts lasting 10, 15 to 20 minutes max.

It's a training split tried and testes not only in it's helping me realize my goal of becoming a successful natural bodybuilder, but it's also helped hundreds of men and women over the past three decades.

I have tested just about every possible training split imaginable and for this particular style of high intensity training, this particular grouping consistently yields fantastic results.

I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me over the years and thanks so much for taking the time to look at my work.

Keep training hard and Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#trainingsplit #3daytrainingsplit #threedaytrainingsplit #naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideo #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #naturalbodybuildingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #bodybuilding #highintensitytraining #highintensitytrainingtips

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405 Stiff Leg Deadlift for 7 Reps! High Intensity Training.

First leg workout of the year and already pushing it!

I haven't done a stiff leg deadlift over 315lbs for about 3 years at this point, and I did my last set with 315lbs and comfortably got to 10 reps and decided I had far too much gas left in the tank and that I should go up in weight.

So I did.

I figured I might get a solid 6 reps in, but I made it to 7 and I think I could have gone on to get a full 10 reps BUT that's when good judgement prevailed.

As a bodybuilder having not trained this heavy for so many years, the shock of this much weight would be more than enough to stimulate muscle growth, and doing more reps wouldn't yield any greater returns, only increase the likelihood of injury.

It's not about the numbers, it's about training to a point where you achieve your goal, and it's important to have a goal in mind as a bodybuilder based on increasing muscle mass rather than hitting a particular number.

Besides, if in my 20's I never did more than 405lbs on a stiff leg deadlift, it doesn't make any sense going heavier than when I am almost 50!

Could I deadlift more at this point?

Absolutely but just because you can doesn't mean you should!

So keep those weights in a good working range, keep it safe and as always Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #roguerack #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #backworkout #naturalbodybuildingtips #backtraining #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #fitoverforty #deadlift

71 20

Turning 50 in a few months...

Not much of a big deal for me as I still feel pretty much the same but I hope that my example helps show what can be done with a lifetime commitment to eating well and training consistently!

Thanks for coming along on the journey and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #healthylifestyle #fitover40 #drugfreebodybuilding #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #natty #fitness

242 41

Please note that all material is copyrighted and DMCA Protected and can be reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the author.

Click for a free copy!

No Time To Train? Click To Get Celebrity Trainer Kevin Richardson’s Ebook On 10 Minute Workouts!

Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, Kevin Richardson’s Naturally Intense High Intensity Training have helped hundreds lose weight and transform their bodies with his 10 Minute Workouts. One of the top natural bodybuilders of his time, Kevin is also the international fitness consultant for UNICEF and one of the best personal trainers in New York City.

See also:

What Kevin Eats- The Daily Diet of A Natural Bodybuilder

101 Realistic Ways To Lose Weight Naturally

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40. Garaulet M, Lee YC, Shen J, Parnell LD, Arnett DK, Tsai MY et al. Genetic variants in human CLOCK associate with total energy intake and cytokine sleep factors in overweight subjects (GOLDN population). Eur J Hum Genet 2010

41. Serretti A, Benedetti F, Mandelli L, Lorenzi C, Pirovano A, Colombo C, Smeraldi E. “Genetic dissection of psychopathological symptoms: insomnia in mood disorders and CLOCK gene polymorphism”. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr 2003.

42. Garaulet M, Corbalán MD, Madrid JA, Morales E, Baraza JC, Lee YC, Ordovas JM. “CLOCK gene is implicated in weight reduction in obese patients participating in a dietary programme based on the Mediterranean diet”. International Journal of Obesity 2010

43. Benedetti F, Serretti A, Colombo C, Barbini B, Lorenzi C, Campori E, Smeraldi E. “Influence of CLOCK gene polymorphism on circadian mood fluctuation and illness recurrence in bipolar depression”. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet 2003

44. Jakubowicz D, Froy O, Wainstein J, Boaz M. Meal timing and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults. Steroids 2012

Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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