The most amazing fast food creation ever(!) is the Sonic Blast Flavor Funnel with Reese’s. Heaven in a cup. Discovered in my first week in North Carolina last summer (they don’t have Sonics in DC). In that first week I had them after dinner, and, not surprisingly, I gained 4 pounds. In week two I consulted the internet where I learned to stop eating after 6pm. I moved my Flavor Bombs to lunch time, and we disappointed when I had gained another 4 pounds!
(Aside: That story is mostly true – I did discover “heaven in a cup” when I moved down here, and I actually gained all 8 pounds my first week eating them at random times of the day.)
The point is (as your common sense would tell you): there is nothing magical that happens at 6pm (or 7pm) that turns a healthy meal into a fattening one. 2,000 calories of frozen fat and sugar is just as bad for you at noon as it is at midnight. Conversely, a meal of protein and veggies is equally good for you at both 5pm and 9pm. What you eat and how much you eat are waaaay more important than when you eat it.
Is Breakfast The Most Important Meal of the Day?
There is an idea in fitness that people seeking weight loss should force themselves to eat breakfast, and then lots of little meals because this will “boost your metabolism”. There is absolutely no evidence that this affects your metabolism one way or the other, only that it leads most people to overeat.
The most important meal of that day (especially for weight loss) is the post-workout meal. Making sure that this meal has protein will help boost your results and reduce your soreness because it boosts recovery.
Recovery is the time between workouts, which is when results actually take place. Anything that improves your recovery will help you get closer to your goals. So, even if you workout at 9pm, you should eat afterwards. If eating dinner after a late workout doesn’t work for you because you’re too tired, or you want to eat with your family, that’s fine too. Just be sure to have some protein – like a shake – before you go to bed.
When Is Late Night Eating Bad For You?
Eating ice cream and pizza after drinking (hopefully after 6pm!) will definitely not support your weight loss goals. Eating mindlessly – especially chips, candy, etc. – while you watch TV will also encourage fat gain. But the above would be just as counterproductive at 6am as at 6pm. However, if you are an evening exerciser and this pushes dinner back, that is totally fine.
How Often Should I Eat? When Should I Eat?
For weight-loss you should eat about 3 times per day, and probably not more. Research shows that eating more often leads many to simply eat more food. This is because smaller, more frequent meals leave you less satisfied with what you’ve eaten and generally hungrier. Eating 6 times a day is also a complete pain in the ass, and requires you to be the one carrying around your cooler everywhere you go.
Most women do well with a roughly 12 hour eating window – that is, if breakfast is at 8am, then dinner is at 8pm or earlier. Lunch is somewhere in the middle, and maybe there is a small snack in between lunch and dinner (fruit works well for many reasons).
What if I Workout In The Morning?
If you workout in the morning you only need 2 things (1) to have enough gas in the tank to have a good workout, but (2) not so much in your tummy that you vomit during that great workout. For many women who work out very early (5:30am, 6:30am…) caffeine and water are all you need.
However, if you workout later in the morning, or you need something beforehand try something small and low in fat. (Low in fat because fat takes a long time to leave your stomach. This is great for keeping you full, but not good for keeping you from puking). Simple things like a protein shake mixed with water, or a piece of fruit will often do the trick.
BTW, have you heard about our 15 Day Kickstart?