The important fact of metabolism is that our bodies do not stop working, even when we are sleeping! Hearts are beating, blood is circulating, lungs are functioning and brains are even working. This all takes energy — meaning we are still burning calories.
There is no magic time after which the body stores fat. For instance, if you eat the same exact meal at 6 pm or at 8 pm, is one more caloric than the other? No, each meal has the same number of calories. What really matters is the total amount of food and drink you have over the course of a week, or a month or longer, and how much energy you expend during that timeframe. Excess calories will be stored as fat over time, regardless of whether they are taken in during the day or night.
When it comes to eating late at night, most people have two main problems. One is having a late dinner after not eating for many hours. When this happens, it can be hard to keep portion sizes within reasonable amounts, making it easier to overeat. Frequently late diners are so hungry that they grab whatever they can — usually fast, on-the-go, and unhealthy choices — they don’t call it “fast food” for nothing. For lots of people who are ravenous, a few slices of pizza win out over preparing steamed veggies and broiled salmon!
Another problem is the “mindless” snacking that goes on at night for many folks. Whether you spend your evenings studying, watching TV, hanging out with friends, reading, or out on the town, the excess calories that add up quickly from chips, cookies, ice cream, and pizza can contribute to weight gain. Calories from these types of foods add up no matter what time of day they are eaten. Some people find that if they set a time that they can’t eat past; it helps minimize or eliminate the possibility of munching on a lot of high calorie foods.
So to settle the debate, you are correct that late-night calories won’t change your metabolism or magically count more than calories eaten during the day. However, limiting late-night meals and snacks may be an effective weight management strategy for some because it helps them to control their overall calorie intake.