My philosophy has always been to eat whenever I am hungry, I just make sure I am conscious of what I eat by making healthy choices.
Weight gain is the result of regularly eating more calories than you burn, not when you eat. I eat 5-6 times during a 24 hour period. This may include me having dinner at 10 pm, as a result of having a late lunch or working late. I have not gained weight or seen any noticeable increase in my body fat percent. If you have experienced weight gain, this has occurred because of excess caloric intake and not the timing of your meals.
The body does not have a clock that determines that food consumed after 6 pm should be stored, especially carbohydrates as fats. Each one of our bodies have a certain amount of calories that can be consumed without gaining weight, and as long as we do not exceed that number, weight gain will not occur.
While I do not count calories, based on the types of foods that I eat and the frequency of which I eat, I would say I consume over 2,500 calories per day. Therefore it is imperative that I expend more calories than I have consumed, to not gain weight. That said, I do not rely on exercise alone to burn calories. Depending on the type of exercises, some days I only burn about 500 calories during my workout.
Approximately 3,500 calories equals a pound of body fat, so to loose 1 to 2 pounds per week you must maintain an average caloric deficit of 500 to 1000 calories per day. However a person could burn 500 calories during exercise and spend the rest of the day participating in sedentary activities.
Keep in mind the amount of energy/calories expended while at rest amounts for, approximately 70% of your total daily energy expenditure. Therefore, about 70% of your total daily caloric intake is required to sustain vital bodily functions such as digestion, respiration and blood circulation.
Again, eat when you are hungry, choose your food wisely and make sure you are burning more calories that you consume. Starvation is not the key to weight loss!
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Reference: NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, 4th Edition.