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​While the evidence is mixed regarding meal timing and fat loss, the key point to understand when debunking the ‘eating late automatically leads to fat gain’ myth, is the principle surrounding body weight gain and body weight loss.

Put simply, the total amount of body fat gained or lost over a prolonged period depends on whether you are in an energy/calorie surplus or deficit and not due to the consumption of a certain food after an arbitrary time-period. Once total calories (and protein) are matched, there will be no meaningful difference in terms of body fat between meal eaten at different times.

The late-night-eating myth likely stemmed from anecdotal reports among certain individuals consuming high calorie dense foods and snacks at night when at home watching television. If these eating habits lead to a chronic energy/calorie surplus, an increase in body fat will occur. Without an understanding of energy, it is easy to point the blame at meal timing rather than the greater influx of calories as the primary cause for body fat gain (remember, fat loss and fat gain are determined by energy balance).

The best advice I can give is to experiment and find a meal pattern (meal timing and frequency) that works for you. Don’t be put off by the time of day once total calories are controlled and in-line with your goals.

Caveats:

• Individual variations with respect to circadian rhythm (your 24-hour internal clock) require consideration with any approach towards calorie distribution with some research suggesting that regular eating patterns may result in beneficial effects for certain metabolic health markers.

• Similarly, it may be wise to avoid having a large meal right before bed as this can negatively impact sleep. Large meals consumed very close to bedtime are associated with sleep disturbance. Sleep decreases the activity of the digestive tract, which may become overloaded during the night if food intake is excessive.  If you want to optimise your fat loss results, sleep quantity and quality need to be prioritised. 

Conclusion – eating late at night does not automatically lead to fat gain unless it contributes towards a net energy/calorie surplus. As with all successful dietary strategies for fat loss, choosing a meal pattern that suits personal preference, lifestyle, goals and one that leads to the greatest adherence trumps all!

Kevin Garde
Bodyscan Consultant
PRISM Nutrition

Do you want to look like one of your well-muscled heroes who ripple with definition and ooze fitness? Well you can, but you have to work at it, and simply going on a diet is only the beginning.

Let’s say you’ve lost weight and – for example – taken up running, but you’re still not happy with your body. You look thinner but you’re still, for want of a better word, a bit flabby and unprepossessing when you check yourself out in the mirror.

This is because the human body has idiosyncrasies all of its own. Just as it will unhelpfully reduce demand for calories when you follow a calorie-deficit diet, so too does it show a certain reluctance to bulk up muscle and shed excess fat. From a survival point of view, this makes sense: fat is the nutritional equivalent of a spare 20 tucked into our wallet. However, it is not aesthetically pleasing, and in most first-world countries today, we do not need to carry extra fat in order to survive.

But it exists and muscle cannot show through a layer of fat. You can work out and have huge strong muscles, but still look a bit flabby because of that persistent layer of fat. So what’s the solution?

First of all, get your body fat measured. The best way to measure body fat is to have someone impartial do it for you. Something like a DEXA body fat measurement will help you work out exactly where you are carrying excess fat, and advise on the best way to start burning it off.

Once you know your body fat composition, you can begin to sculpt your body. You cannot target an area to reduce fat, the body sheds fat in its own order. But you can work on building the muscles underneath through targeted workouts, even as you work on burning off that layer of fat. As the fat comes off, your newly bulked and sculpted muscles will ‘pop’, giving you that highly desirable athletic look.

A constant refrain from Bodyscan customers, when asked about their nutrition, is that they “eat healthy” or “eat clean” or “make everything from scratch”.

Fresh, unprocessed foods taste good and are better for us but if you eat too much of anything, the excess calories will make you fat.

‘Healthy fats’ like extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, for example, may well have health benefits but they are very calorie-dense. One tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories. Add three spoonfuls to your salad and that’s an easily-overlooked 360 calories.

Nuts and seeds are described as healthy additions to a diet but they are extremely high in calories. Just 100g of almonds or sunflower seeds contains 600 calories, while walnuts and pine nuts have 700 – equivalent to three jacket potatoes, a large portion of paella or 250g of tiramisu.

If you consider a lot of women on a diet aim for 1200-1400 calories a day, these so-called healthy foods will quickly eat into your target and leave you hungry.

Freshly made juices and fruit smoothies should also be treated with caution. Basically liquid sugar, these high-calorie ‘healthy’ drinks can create a big sugar spike followed by a dip, leading to hunger pangs that may force you to break your diet.

Archie Williams
Bodyscan Consultant
Body Transformation