Will I Still Burn Fat If I Eat At Night?

Newsletter Reader L. Blair of San Diego, California wrote in to me after watching my debut video on workout recovery. She asked a very important question:

Hi Aimee,
Thanks for your newsletter. I watched your video as I feel that I am not doing something right. My fitness trainer always tells me similar advice to what you said, but here’s my problem, by the time I finish my workout at 6:30 PM, drive home (maybe stopping at the store), shower, cook and then eat dinner, it/s about an hour and a half after my workout. I am exhausted by the time I finish dinner, plus I wonder if I am burning the fat very well with that amount of delay, not to mention that it’s often close to 8 PM already by the time I eat.

L. Blair

Dear L.,

It is going to be important to keep snacks in the car for after your workout at all times. Turkey jerky and a small amount of dried fruit, protein powder and coconut water (keep powder in a ziplock, add coconut water and protein to a jar or travel mug and shake vigorously) or even half a sandwich with meat and veggies. When you get home, have a slightly smaller meal. You can also have a snack before you work out, and that should prevent you from being so depleted by time you get home. From a fat loss standpoint, waiting can be beneficial, but not if it causes muscle loss or increases your cravings at night. If fat loss is a major goal, get protein in but keep carbs limited to 8-10 bites. Round out the meal with vegetables and you are good to go!

 

One critical point in this is recognizing that nutrition for fat loss is VERY different than nutrition for exercise or sports performance. The body is VERY resistant to building (stamina, muscle mass, strength) at the same time it is shedding fat. As a rule I strongly advocate my athletes wait until the off season to shed any extra weight. Trying to lose weight while building up for a race or event can induce injury, illness, and compromise performance. While it *is* possible, it is a tricky, tricky fine line and it is important not to be attached to losing X pounds AND shaving off so many minutes from your race time with only 2 months to spare.

In L’s case, fat loss is her main focus, so waiting a while between workout and dining can benefit her from a fat loss standpoint. However, based on her inquiry, it appears that she is waiting long enough that it is inhibiting her energy levels. In the presence of insulin, fat burning is inhibited. But by having a small snack before or immediately after, and a lighter dinner focused on protein and fibrous veggies, she can prevent an energy crash but allow her body to dip into fat stores by emphasizing protein and veggies over carbohydrate.

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