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Will Late Night Dinners Lead to Weight Gain?

You Asked: Late Workout and Even Later Dinner

Dear Fit,
The only time I can exercise is after work, but I don't get to the gym until 6:30. By the time I'm finished, showered, and get home, it's 8:00, and I'm starving for dinner. Is it too late to eat a big meal? Am I undoing all the work I did at the gym?
— Working Hard and Hungry

This is an excellent question I'm sure many others who work or go to school full-time can relate to. I'm happy to hear that you're still fitting exercise in, and not letting work commitments get in the way. That said, I have some thoughts about how to handle dinner after your late night workouts, so


Refueling after you work out is a must, so don't worry about eating dinner, even if it's late at night. You may have heard that eating past 7 p.m. will lead to weight gain, but that's a myth, so don't be concerned with your late night meal undoing all your hard work.

That said, you still want your evening meal to be healthy, and you should eat an appropriate portion size that contains protein and carbs to refuel your muscles for your next sweat session. I'm concerned that since you're famished upon arriving home, you're more likely to reach for quick and easy junk foods, and eat more calories than you would if you were only slightly hungry. To prevent this from happening, make sure you eat a pre-workout snack around 4 p.m. that contains carbs and protein and fiber. Yogurt and a piece of fruit or a KIND fruit and nut bar are great options. This snack will give you energy to sweat it out, but should also keep you fuller longer. Be sure to pack a small post-workout/pre-dinner snack to munch on while you drive home from the gym. A piece of fruit or some trail mix will be just enough to ease your hunger so that when you get home, your starving state doesn't cause you to devour an entire bag of pretzels for dinner. You should also try to plan ahead and pre-make some dinners so when you get home, you can grab a salad, warm up some soup, or heat up some grilled chicken and broccoli, and not have to waste time preparing a nutritious meal.

Join The Conversation
DivaDivine DivaDivine 7 years
I work, go to school and volunteer on the side. Like Fit says, I workout late and eat dinner and sometimes dessert late at night. Once I started really paying attention to my calories in and out (thanks to my Polar HRM) I found that I was able to lose weight anyway. Fifty pounds lighter, I realize that the eating late myth was busted.
MandeeLei MandeeLei 7 years
I have been doing this for years and will be doing it again when I do start working again. It's nice to be able to work out in the afternoons right now since I am not working but once I go back I will be in the same boat again. Obviously it is how much you eat not when you eat that matters and you have to find what works for you. I cannot stress the importance of food prep though. I hate having to come home tired from work and the gym to have to cook all evening and then prep lunches for the next day and all the other things that need to get done. Having meals prepared ahead of time makes working out in the evenings much easier. I usually eat a snack around 4 and then workout around 6 and if I do weights I have a protein shake right afterwards around 7 then eat dinner around 8-9 pm. And I even have a sweet treat every evening as well. Even with all that evening eating I have had no problem losing weight and maintaining weight, it's all about how much you eat that is the most important.
mtn-girl mtn-girl 7 years
I make a large batch of soup every Sunday, that i eat at nights after my work outs - my big meal is at lunch!
vanillabean vanillabean 7 years
What a relief! I sometimes go to a late Bikram yoga class and by the time I get out and shower, it's very late and I'm starving! Usually have something lighter like soup or cereal, but I always felt somewhat guilty.
sparklestar sparklestar 7 years
I tend to do this, especially now I'm working full time. For a time last year we'd eat dinner and THEN go to the gym which was all kinds of yukky since I was still digesting.
Anne26 Anne26 7 years
I work out in the mornings. It seems that is the only time I can. Evenings is for relaxing. Plus, I'm a morning person.
Camarogirl67 Camarogirl67 7 years
Wow, so good to hear. FitSugar - how long should we wait after eating dinner to go to bed, anyways?
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I've done this before and it's not a huge deal. Just make sure that you eat something nutritious and not too high in calories. It's not when you eat; it's WHAT you eat that matters.
Daisy-Duke Daisy-Duke 7 years
Like so many of these people commenting, yes...this is me too! I definitely need to pack more snacks, I always get so hungry around 5/6 pm and would rather go home and eat then workout. Good advice!
Angelica Angelica 7 years
Great advice. I've had the same concern because I don't workout until late and eat even later. Thanks, Fit!
Maeganmaxfitness Maeganmaxfitness 7 years
Ugh this is so me! I am a trainer so I usually workout then train for a couple hours after everyone gets off work, so I get off even later then everone else. By then I am starving and I always want to shower first once I get home. I am seriously ravenous!!! I've gotten better about not chowing down like a crazy animal but I'm happy to hear that it doesn't really matter what time you eat dinner as long as it a healthy one. :)
MsTwirlySkirts MsTwirlySkirts 7 years
This is me! I eat around 8:30 or 9 every night even if I get home a bit earlier (and even on the weekends). I love eating late - and was glad when I wisited France that it was the norm! And I have never been skinnier in my life! Those europeans are doing something right!
runswimmerrun runswimmerrun 7 years
I was wondering too, but I wasn't too concerned. If I go to the gym after work, especially if I run, I want to eat less afterwards than if I went straight home. I think there are 2 reasons; I feel more inspired to be healthy after the gym and my stomach can't handle anything too heavy after all that movement. :)
michlny michlny 7 years
If you eat something too heavy or drink too much it will certainly interfere with your sleep. The digestive process can wake you up in the middle of the night. If you have time for a light stroll after dinner - it helps with digestion.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
This is the story of my life as well. Even if you're eating late (which, as Fit said, probably doesn't matter), you're still maximizing weight loss by spending your evenings in the gym, rather than sitting on the couch and mindlessly snacking.
Meowphotog Meowphotog 7 years
Healthy is the way to go for late night dinners. As long as you aren't eating at 9 and in bed by 10, all should be well!
I was wondering the same thing! This is such good advice because I end up staying awake longer after I have dinner so I'm not sleeping on a full stomach. But then I'm tired in the morning :(
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