The old saying goes, “Breakfast for a king, lunch for a prince, dinner for pauper.” But do you need to eat less at night (i.e., after 6pm)?
The simple answer is no, you don’t. Just make sure you don’t overeat. Over consumption of carbohydrate or any food late in the day is the likely cause of weight gain related to nighttime eating.
It’s hard to find any conclusive metabolic evidence that food eaten at night is more likely to be stored as body fat. Metabolism drops when you are sleeping, but that simply lowers your daily energy expenditure and its 24 hour energy balance (energy in versus energy out) that really matters for weight gain or loss.
For fat loss, there appears to be no difference in success between eating three square meals or eating more often, as long as total energy intake remains the same. Studies of people who eat the same number of daily calories with dierent meal frequencies in metabolic chambers fail to show a difference in metabolic rate between three or six meal patterns.
The January 2005 editorial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) states, “Simply put, the question of whether there is a health benefit from the consumption of small meals will ultimately depend on how much energy is consumed, as opposed to how often or how regularly one eats.”
A study in the same issue of the A JCN suggests that keeping the meal pattern constant does have metabolic advantages.
Researchers compared a regular meal pattern (six meals a day) versus a “chaotic” meal pattern of anywhere between three and nine eating occasions on different days for two weeks.
The regular meal pattern was associated with a greater thermic eect of food (energy cost of digestion and absorption), lower energy intake and lower fasting total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
There was also a slightly lower postprandial (after meal) insulin concentration with the regular pattern. All these factors suggest choosing a pattern and sticking to it, rather than skipping meals, will assist with fat loss.
Eat for Appetite Management
Eating five or six meals a day may assist with appetite management by maintaining satiety between main meals. This means you’ll be less likely to overeat at meals. If you are active and have large energy requirements, you’ll also need to spread your food intake over the day.
However, for some people, eating every three hours may have a negative impact on weight management.
This can be the case when an individual has poor appetite management and too many snacks between meals.
They may be better suited to avoiding food triggers between main meals, especially if they are not very active and don’t need to fuel up so often in the day.