The Eating-After-Six Myth

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Eating after 6 p.m. will make you fat” is a myth that’s been repeated so often we assume it’s true. When you eat matters, but not nearly as much as what you eat and how much. There is nothing magical that happens at 6 p.m. to turn a healthy meal into a fattening one.

Fast food is equally bad for you and your figure at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Conversely, a meal of protein and veggies is equally good for you before and after dark.

The most important meal of that day — especially for weight loss — is the post-workout meal. Making this your largest meal, regardless of when you work out, will help you lose a little more fat. This slight edge is due to something called nutrient partitioning.

Nutrient partitioning is the technical term describing where your food goes after you digest it. Does it go to your fat tissue (making it grow) or to your lean tissue (making you look and feel better)? Exercise, especially smart strength training and interval training, helps to improve nutrient partitioning by encouraging your body to put your food in the right place: your lean tissue, not your fat cells.

This post-workout meal is also important for your recovery. Recovery is the time between workouts, when results actually take place. Anything that improves your recovery will help you get closer to your goals. So, even if you work out at 9 p.m., you should eat afterward.

Eating ice cream and pizza when drunk (after 6 p.m., for most of us) will definitely not support your weight-loss goals. Eating mindlessly — munching on chips, candy, etc. — while watching TV is also a bad move. But all the above would be just as counterproductive at 6 a.m. as at 6 p.m.

For weight loss, you should eat about three 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.

There is an idea in fitness that people seeking weight loss should force themselves to eat breakfast, then eat 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.

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