Debunk-Tuesday – Late Night Fat

in health •  3 months ago

Guess who’s fat? Fat again? You are fat, ask a friend.
Yes. You. No need to look around. I’m looking exactly at your guilty face. You have done it again and you know it, hence you deserve the punishment you received. In late night, you sneaked out of your bed into the kitchen with only one goal ahead: the fridge and all its tasty contents. HA! Gotcha! You sneaky, little devil. Shame on you. For eating late night, you will get fat. Take this!

Late-Night Mischief


When I started this blog a few months ago, I wrote a lot about proper nutrition, exercise, weight loss and gain – basically about a lot of things which had to do with getting (and staying) in shape, as well as some of the most popular myths connected to that very idea.
Now, a couple of months have passed, and it cannot hurt to dive into nutrition science once again.
There is a famous saying around regarding the size of a meal with an associated day time: ”Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”
I have no idea who said this first, some people contribute the quote to the nutrition pioneer Adelle Davis(1), but I was not able to verify that (but I did not search with a lot of enthusiasm either, to be completely honest).

No matter who was responsible for that nonsense, it most likely played a part in creating one of the most popular nutrition myths of all time: eating shortly before going to bed will make you fat.
There is so much wrong about it, I don’t even know where to start.
And it definitely does not help when respected newspapers like The Telegraph write headlines like Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper to lose weight, scientists confirm(2).
As you probably already have guessed: the researchers did not confirm anything. They searched(3) for a possible connection between weight loss or gain, the number of meals and the time of the day they were consumed.
First of all, as readers of this blog should already know: correlation does not equal causation.
The scientist are, of course, fully aware of this simple fact. But I will discuss more of this later on.

Your body – a biological machine

It is of the utmost significance for all of you to understand one simple but very, no, VERY important aspect regarding nutrition: your body DOES NOT exist outside the realm of the laws of nature.
You will not get fat just by looking at a carrot and you will not lose weight by continuously consuming high-caloric drinks and food. For a simpler understanding imagine your body as a factory which constantly needs energy to be able to work properly. It will suffer a substantial loss of productivity and health, if either it does not receive the optimal amount of energy or it has to deal with an excess of said energy. As soon as this is the case, the exceeding energy will be stored for a possible later use. When it comes to your body, this means the energy is stored as fat.
Of course, there are a couple of other things which will have an effect upon the amount of stored energy, but for simplicity reasons we can ignore them for now. We are currently focusing on healthy adults.
Your body-factory is working 24/7. Until the day you die it will not rest. Not a single day. That also means it does not really care about the time you eat – but way, WAY more about the amount you consume.
So, yeah, the little story I told in the introduction part of this article if way more fiction than reality. Your body will not punish you just because you had a late-night snack.
Yep, as with all good things in life there is always a catch. I am relatively sure you will have guessed it by now anyway. Your body will not punish you, if the late-night snack does not exceed your total amount of energy needed of the given day in relation to the total energy consumed during a longer period of time.
Wait, what?
Ok, slow down. Weight management is not something which can (or should) be monitored from one day to another – but over a longer period of time. You won’t get fat, if you exceed your energy consumption at one day but compensate that with either more exercise or less food during the next days. It will even itself out. But if you routinely consume more than you need…yes, than you will end up as a fat and unhealthy couch potato. Better to accept that reality sooner than later.

"I’m fat, but I don’t eat much at all!"

Ask yourself two, simple questions:
"How much do you think you eat?"
"How much do you REALLY eat?"
I can almost promise you, there will be two different numbers as answers. The reason for this is simple as well: You don’t know, how many calories the food and beverages you consume contain. In addition, you are quite likely to forget some of the small “snacks” (not only the late-night ones) you are eating (or drinking) during your day. That’s ok, most people don’t really care about this, but it’s an important difference to be aware of, if you want to get control over your weight.
But that’s not all. It is most likely, that you estimate the level of your daily activity much higher, than it actually is. In short: You underrate your caloric intake and overrate your activity level. Damn. That’s rough.
But you are not alone with this problem. To give you some perspective, I can show you the results of a study conducted by Lichtman et al.(4) in 1992. They wanted to test people who thought to be resistant to any kind of dietary changes. The participants stated, they didn’t eat that much and had a high activity level as well. Problem was: neither were true. They underrated their average caloric intake by 47% and overrated their level of activity by 51%. Of course, they did not do it on purpose, but our brain has some effective ways to ensure we look good, even if reality says otherwise.

A similar study by Pietiläinen et al. in 2010(5) was conducted with identical twins – one was obese, the other one had a normal weight. The obese twins were convinced, their caloric intake and level of activity were quite similar to the ones of their twin counterparts. In comparison, the normal weight twins said about their siblings, they were eating more and unhealthier and their activity level was lower. Perception is a devious thing.
To outline this further, you can take a look at a study provided by Burton (2006)(6), in which participants should try to estimate the number of calories different kinds of meals contained. The results were as hilarious as fascinating: The higher the actual number of calories was, the more imprecise the guesses of the participants became.

Stay healthy

Et clen.png
Source | My creativity.

To sum it up: be aware of your total caloric intake and you are good to go – even for the late-night snacks.
Which brings us back to the study referred by The Telegraph at the beginning of this article.
The authors of the paper wrote:

In conclusion, our results suggest that eating less frequently (and eating no snacks), consuming breakfast, and eating the largest meal in the morning may be effective long-term preventive tools against weight gain for those in whom this would be unhealthy. Eating only 2 meals/d, breakfast and lunch 5–6 h apart, may also be an interesting strategy for weight control. Although the annual effects of these meal patterns on BMI are small, they may be very important across a lifetime.

This is, of course, quite an obvious result. Less frequent meals equal quite often also a lower total caloric intake – which then naturally leads to a lower BMI. It might be easier to achieve this, if you focus your meal time only at breakfast and lunch (with the lion’s share regarding to breakfast), but it is not a must do.
You can eat all day long, but if your overall consumption does not exceed the energy level you require, it will still be alright. Always remember:
Eat clean, train hard, sleep well.

Feel always free to discuss my ideas and share your own thoughts about the things I’m writing about. Nobody is omniscient and if we all walk away a bit smarter than before, we’ll have achieved a lot.
Thanks for reading and stay sceptical.


Make sure, to check out #steemstem for more science related content.


(1) Adelle Davis | (2) The Telegraph and Science Communication | (3) Meal frequency, time and BMI | (4) Bad Estimation of Activity Levels | (5) Twin Study: Nutrition and Activity Perception | (6) Estimation of Food & Calories


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The day I learned that my "healthy" walnuts have about 640 kcal/100g was a sad day... People heavily underestimate how many kcal their food has, especially if they're told it's something healthy. And as soon as you start actively tracking it, you start being horrified.

I used to cook with a lot of olive oil, as that's the way I had been taught - by my 2m tall, highly physically active father. People tend to forget that not everyone has the same base metabolism, and then complain that they, as a short person, gain weight while eating the same as a tall person.

So many ways to lie to yourself.

"It's just a handful of gummy bears" (300 kcal)

"Just a quarter bar of chocolate" (120 kcal)

"One croissant is a nice breakfast" (300 kcal)

But blaming it all on genetics is way easier than taking responsibility for your eating habits.


I wanted to comment here but all the good things were said by you.
I am guilty not of eating late but of eating continuously =)
Indeed many of the things I eat and I didn't use to count had more calories than the sum of the rest of the meals. Thankfully I can stuff myself with 4000 kcal a day without gaining significant weight but this will change and I will adjust the intake.

It all depends on the responsibility and the will to actually lose weight. This is where the errors happen for most :D


gender fat.png

Same logic.


Walnuts are healthy. You have do distinguish between healthy and unhealthy calories (im german by the way so this is wy my english probalby is not that well:D).

So walnuts yes of course are a high calorie food, but these calories are made of very healthy fats, and a lot of protein (which have some good effects in your diet).
Chocolate for example is a high calorie food too but the difference between walnuts and chocolate is, that chocolate has not this great and important ingredients walnuts have. So you can say chocolate is unhealthy because chocolate has not much healthy and important ingredients.
But walnuts are healthy. You can not judge food only by virtue of the calories. You have to look also at what are these calories made of/what are the ingredients.

Yes when it comes to lose fat ore gain fat(or muscel when you train) than is the calorie intake in relation to the energy your body need the most important fact but a high calorie food is not generally unhealthy.

By the way sometimes i dont understand how people get problems with to eat too much calories, in my case i have problems to eat more my body needs (like 3700 calories per day). Eat that much because of sports and the goal of gaining weight)
have a good day:D


My point wasn't "healthy" vs. "unhealthy" calories, it was about the fact that too many people think that, just because something is healthy, it won't make them fat.

And I burn in average 1800-2100 kcal a day. Now, go figure what kind of difference that makes compared to your 3700 kcal in regards to overeating.

5k kcal in a day is easy btw. Maybe not if you stick to vegetables, but a bag of chips (700 kcal) and a large portion of fries (600 kcal) already get you well on the way. Fat people are usually not fat because of their good food choices.


My point wasn't "healthy" vs. "unhealthy" calories, it was about the fact that too many people think that, just because something is healthy, it won't make them fat.

Okay then i understood you not in the right way:D

And I burn in average 1800-2100 kcal a day. Now, go figure what kind of difference that makes compared to your 3700 kcal in regards to overeating.

Yeah thats true reaching this 2k calories is way more easier.
But i think when you eat in normal speed and so on (eat low calorie stuff also like vegetables) your body is pretty good to tell you how much you have to eat. I usually would burn like 3400 kcal per day and im able to reach this 3400 kcal pretty well (not tracking) only trust my feelings. So i think overeating is something like difficult fore people like you who burn 2k kcal and also for me with like 3400kcal per day because your body know you need no more then the 2k kcal an my body knows i dont need no more then 3400kcal.
But only my experiences.

5k kcal in a day is easy btw. Maybe not if you stick to vegetables, but a bag of chips (700 kcal) and a large portion of fries (600 kcal) already get you well on the way.

I will see you eating this 5k kcal per day longterm:D In my opinion really difficult. Perhaps you are able to eat that much a few days but longterm this will be very hard. I have Problems with that 3700kcal a day and thats only like 300kcal over the energy my body burn a day.


With your reasoning, fat people wouldn't exist.

Just because it's hard for you to eat that much, doesn't mean it applies to everyone.

Just because I can't run a marathon doesn't mean nobody can.


No i just think when you hear to your body you are able to hit your calories pretty well.
When you dont hear to your body/development the bad habit of eating to fast and only high calorie fast food and stuff like that, perhaps this is teached to you by your parents so your body never learned how to eat right you will get fat of course.

So my advice for fat people is to start train (in gym) and then adapt your calorie intake.
Losing body fat without training is not that efficient cause you will lose your muscles first. So train hard eat well (not that hard in my opinion when you are motivated cause you will be able to see your successes pretty fast)

Nice one! I need to read more of your stuff :)


You should, have fun :)


I like what I have read :) so I encourage you to write more, following you now

I don't eat much before sleep because I have to take care of my acid balance more than most, but as for the weight aspect I've never really looked at the veracity of this common myth.

Seems that it's not uncommon for overweight individuals to have some digestion issues. According to this study our bodies process food differently depending on which phase of sleep we are in, so perhaps digestion problems are exacerbated as a result of poor eating and sleeping habits?


perhaps digestion problems are exacerbated as a result of poor eating and sleeping habits?

This is not unlikely. A healthy sleep will most likely help in process food properly. But sleep quality can be affected by many things. I tend to think, this works vice versa - food can be processed in a better way during high-quality sleep and also can affect sleep quality as well.


I agree with that study.
I went through various living schedules:
2010-2014 waking up at 8 sleeping at 1 AM - no problems
2015-2016 waking up at 6 sleeping at 1 AM - digestive problems and gaining weight (also ventricular extrasystoles)
2017-2018 waking up at 9 sleeping at 2 AM - no problems again

There was no increase in stress or other problems and when the sleep recovered I was fine again so I ruled out aging.
Not of significant scientific value, just my experience. Also the lack of sleep made me dumb :)


Every bit of anecdotal evidence collected together will provide value eventually!

Even in cases where people make incorrect conclusions from their own experiences, like the examples mentioned in egotheist's article, someone else may find additional information and complete the picture.

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Ppl still believe all those myths :D Dont get whats up with eating before bed, why not eatin IN bed? 2 pound pint of icreme + 1 Liter Cola + TV. Best for recovery :D

and the good old tren + clen stack of course :D RIP


Ppl still believe all those myths :D Dont get whats up with eating before bed, why not eatin IN bed? 2 pound pint of icreme + 1 Liter Cola + TV. Best for recovery :D

I will conduct empirical research on this one.

and the good old tren + clen stack of course :D RIP

You are probably one of the few who will get the reference :D

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Ask yourself two, simple questions:
"How much do you think you eat?"
"How much do you REALLY eat?"

I would add a third question: "How much do you really need to eat?"


I thought I answered this. Weird.
And yes, good addition :)

Having an ideal of how much we really consume helps us regulate our body weight...thanks for sharing

I was always fascinated by people who blame their weight on the hormonal imbalance, and not their caloric intake. Sure, hormones makes you fat and not food.

If you have hormonal imbalance that means that you need to take much more caution on your diet than person who doesn't suffer from such issues. Reasoning "But I just had one doughnut!" won't get you anywhere, because that one doughnut will do much more damage to you than to me.


I'm more amazed at people who blame genetics. Sure, we have discovered like less than 10% of the human genome, the genetic cause that can make us fat but it's a bit different than fat caused by overeating.


Again the same story as with hormones - if you have or you think you have a genetic predisposition for obesity, you need to take different approach regarding your diet compared to person who doesn't have that issue.


And it's not just about weight, certain physical and even mental dysfunctions like schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, Alzheimer's for example, already have dietary recommendations that could turn a persons' life around.

I've been on a receiving end of a diet change and all I can say is that it's very frustrating how often people ignore the idea.


You are a woman. Obviously, your opinion is clouded by emotions and hormones. Shh!