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 read more.
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.