T Nation

Eating Before Bed


My fiance' holds the belief that eating late at night will make you fat. She's gained a few pounds recently and she's convinced that it's because she's been eating late at night. Her mom, who is a nurse (which makes it even worse for my side), has this belief as well. I know this is wrong, but I can't back myself up well enough, and we get into this argument a lot.

I asked her about her food intake for the day, and it turns out she got about 1400 calories. I told her that she should be much more worried about this than what time it is when she eats. She knows she needs to eat more but she still says she shouldn't eat before bed because her "body won't burn off those calories." By the way, she doesn't have an eating disorder, she just didn't realize she was getting so few calories.

Anyway, I convinced her to have a healthy snack before bed to make up for some of those calories, but then her mom walked in and said "that's going straight to your belly." This really drives me crazy.

I told her I'd find articles and studies that support my position, but I'm kind of coming up dry. There are a few articles I've found that mention it briefly, but it's like "don't fall for the eating before bed makes you fat myth," and that's all. And none with any references or anything like that. I'm sure they're here, but I haven't found them. Could anyone point me in that direction? Articles with references at the end would be ideal. Studies on pubmed would be cool too, but I'm so inexperienced with pubmed that all I'm finding is studies about anorexia and bulemia.

Of course, I'm not asking for anyone to go searching for me, but if you have any links saved or close at hand that would be great.

Thanks in advance!


If your goal is weight loss, it is definately considered a good idea to not eat a big meal before bedtime. I personally don't eat anything 4-6 hours before bed. This is coming from someone that lost 155 pounds in 10 months.

Most people will recommend eating your largest meal for the day in the morning, preferably post workout. This is the pefect time to eat slow digesting carbs such as oatmeal. Then it's a good idea to step down the calories and carbs for the rest of the day.

Stick with proteins and fat in the evening. It makes sense that your body needs energy in order to get through the day more than it needs energy for sleep. If you load up on calories and don't use them right away, they will definately be stored as fat.


I believe eating before bed is a strategy for building and maintaining muscle mass. It's not necessarily something you want to do if that's not your goal. Although eating a little something might prevent atrophy during the night, it also isn't going to promote fat loss.


Who said anything about a big meal? Her idea is that eating anything at all late at night will make you fat. Some slow protein and fat before bed would be ideal, I think, whether trying to gain muscle or lose fat.

Slow carbs post-workout? Nope. Slow carbs first thing in the morning, yes. Personally if I eat a large meal in the morning I feel like vomitting for the rest of the day and have a very hard time eating like I should. She's the same way.

Not necessarily. To my understanding, if you've expended 2500 calories and only eaten 2000, you can eat an additional 500 right before bed and it won't be excess. You don't have to use them right away, just so long as it balances out at the end of the day (as far as I know).

My question isn't specific to fat loss or muscle gain. My question is this: "does eating before bed promote fat gain?" To my understanding, the answer is "no." What I'm looking for is some info to back up that "no" answer.

Thanks to both of you for your input though.


Well no study here persay but I find the before bed eating even more crutial during a cut than when bulking.

The point in the frequent meals is to keep that metabolism Humming and also save your LBM. At night this is a long period of time and if you dont eat before bed even longer when On a low cal Hypo caloric diet. You are just asking for trouble. I would rather short myself at another meal and have a small snack 200-300 k-cals before bed.

also helps me sleep better.
Just my 2 cc


What nonsense. Congratulations on your weight loss though! You might now want to consider a smaller P + F meal right before bed to supply your body with nutrients and preservce muscle.

Yes-don't load up on calories. Have a nice P + F meal right before bed. Cottage cheese and nuts are a good choice. Low-Carb Grow! milk some Hood Carb Control milk, a little cottage cheese, and some olive oil is a favorite pudding, 'dessert' of mine pre-bed.


Also, if I don't eat something before bed, I wake up hungry in the middle of the night. I don't like doing this. It's not a stumble to the kitchen, grab something and fall back to sleep. It's hard for me to get back to sleep on these occasions. If I eat something, I MAY occasionally still wake up but with a very low-grade hunger mixed with high-grade drowsiness. I'll eat something and fall back to sleep right away.


I don't see the need for a non-athletic individual to eat prior to bed if they're not hungry.

Just because something has a place in a bodybuilding diet doesn't mean that it should be applied to everyone's diet.


Again, that has nothing to do with what I'm asking. I didn't make any mention of her athleticism. I'm also not saying that she necessarily should eat before bed. I'm saying that eating dinner close to bedtime will not make her fat, and I'm looking for evidence to support that.


Right. Well, I don't know of any scientific evidence or studies. But everyone with a solid nutrition background that I know agrees that it's calories over the course of the day that matter, assuming proper food choices, and not avoiding food for a certain amount of time before bed. Maybe Dave Barr of Lonnie Lowery or some of the other Prime Time guys can help you.


This was assuming that you work out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. I understand that not everyone can do this this, but I consider it a good idea for weight loss if it works with your schedule. You probably wouldn't have any problem getting a solid meal down after a nice morning workout. If you're like me and you don't have any energy in the morning, take a protein shake and some caffeine.


That doesn't sound like you would be in excees either. However if you only ate 500 calories during the day and had the other 2000 right before bed then I would imagine it would have a negative metabolic effect on your body even though it balances out at the end of the day.


Look for David Barr's articles. He has one dealing with night time feeding. I'll try and find it if you interested. If so just send me a PM and I'll get it to you.


David Barr's article is called, "Stop the catabolic insanity."

He also wrote a recent article touching on post workout nutrition in "The top 10 post workout nutrition myths" which talks about eating before bed.


Thanks for those sources, Nat.


Are you nitpicking on purpose? Obviously no knowledgable person on this site would advocate that.


Nat, thanks. I'll look into those.

Spad, you're dealing in extremes, and I'm dealing with the "norm." Don't bring up stupid points for the sake of an argument.


You know why people think that eating before bed makes them fat?

It's because of the food choices people have made over the years.

What happens from 8-10pm for most people? They are home, in front of the TV or computer. They are seeing ads and commercials for food, and they are getting subliminal messages that really do affect you. So when you see commercials late at night for pizza, ice cream, fast food, etc., and then you eat something like that...you end up getting FAT!

It's not that eating before bed is bad (whether gaining or dieting), it's the food choices you make that are bad.

Even if dieting, I recommend a small protein meal prior to bed to help prevent muscle loss.

Tell her to make better choices at night and to eat a small meal, and she won't have anything to worry about!

Now, if she grabs a half gallon of ice cream and starts sucking it down...well, you can slap her in the head and tell her why she just added to the myth that eating before bed makes you fat! :wink:


I'm only dealing in the extreme to point out the fact that it does matter when you choose to take in your calories. "As long as it balances out at the end of the day" is not always right. As long as you use common sense with your meal times you really have nothing to worry about.


Very good point Phill.