No, as far as science has been able to tell, this is not accurate. That is to say, eating at a certain time of day does not cause your body to somehow get more or less energy from the food you eat or store more or less of it as fat. Or if it does, the difference is not significant.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weight Control Information Network web site, “it does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.”
The theory: You burn up the food you eat earlier in the day, while late-night calories sit in your system and turn into fat.
The reality: Calories can't tell time. "Your body digests and uses calories the same way morning, noon, and night," says Mary Flynn, Ph.D., a research dietitian at the Miriam Hospital, in Providence.
Food eaten late at night is more fattening.
Many diets tell you not to eat after a certain time in the evening. They say the body will store more fat because it is not burned off with any activity.
A study at the Dunn Nutrition Centre in Cambridge suggests otherwise.
The results revealed the large meal eaten late at night did not make the body store more fat.
From BBC News:
Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University in the United States carried out tests on 47 female monkeys.
They found no link between when the animals ate and whether or not they put on weight.
"The bottom line is a calorie is a calorie whenever you eat it," he told BBC News Online.
"Your body doesn't really recognise what time of day it is. It is a little bit of a myth.
Conclusion: What matters is what you eat, and how much, not when you eat it.
However, that's not to say that there's no benefit at all to getting calories earlier in the day. What you eat early in the day can affect your blood sugar levels, and therefore your hunger sensations for the rest of the day. If you eat a hearty breakfast with protein and slow-burning carbs, you're likely to feel less hungry during the day, and you may eat less.
Conversely, if you eat badly throughout the day, letting your hunger build and perhaps going through insulin shocks because of junk food and simple carbs, you may have strong cravings at night and be more inclined to binge eat.
Also, people may tend to eat more "snack" foods at night that they wouldn't have eaten earlier in the day. For example, the first link I posted says:
People eat at night for a variety of reasons that often have little to do with hunger, from satisfying cravings to coping with boredom or stress. And after-dinner snacks tend not to be controlled. They often consist of large portions of high-calorie foods (like chips, cookies, candy), eaten while sitting in front of the television or computer. In this situation, it’s all too easy to consume the entire bag, carton, or container before you realize it. Besides those unnecessary extra calories, eating too close to bedtime can cause indigestion and sleeping problems.
So in the sense that your eating behavior and choices may be different late at night than they would be during the day, it may be wise for you to get your meals in earlier if it means eating healthier food or having less hunger pangs. However, if you were to plan all your meals for the day in advance, and set them aside in separate lunch boxes, and you didn't eat anything else but what you packed, at the end of the day it wouldn't really matter when you chose to eat the contents of those lunch boxes. If you had your evening meal at 5pm, or if you had it at 11pm, as long as you ate the same foods in the same amounts it wouldn't have a noticeable affect on your weight gain or loss.