Eating Before Bed: Good or Bad

eating before bed

The opinion of a nutritionist about who should resort to eating before bed and why the hackneyed principle “do not eat after 6 pm” is bad.

Together with the expert of The Lion Health, nutritionist, and fitness consultant Jamie Vargas, we’ll understand how late dinners affect the body and whether there are those for whom they are suitable.

Eating Before Bed. What’s Wrong With It?

The question that worries many people who go on a diet in pursuit of a dream figure: what time can you have dinner? In the most extreme recommendations, everything is simple – no later than 6 pm period! And what about those who, for example, come home from work closer to midnight? Or for those who are used to waking up by noon and just starting to pick up the pace by six in the evening? Losing weight is impracticable? Feasible, of course. You just need to understand the general principles and adjust the technique for yourself.

I propose to deal with the issue once and forever and find out what the optimal dinner time will be in your case. At the same time, I will tell you what will happen to those who eat at night all the time. I checked it on myself.

late-night eating

Calorie Counting: Math Rules

Let’s immediately accept the fact that we gain and lose weight based on the balance of calories eaten and spent as an axiom. Whoever eats little and moves a lot will lose weight. Fans of fast food and couch, respectively, vice versa. Leaving aside the cases of serious illness, there are no exceptions to this rule.

Then, maybe at night, our metabolism stops, and everything eaten turns into fat? We sleep, we don’t move, we don’t waste energy. I agree, at first, it sounds logical, but only if you do not know the physiology. In reality, our body spends energy around the clock, without interruptions to sleep. This is called basal metabolism. Even when we lie with our eyes closed, the process does not stop. But as soon as we take a sitting position, the flow rate increases slightly. We get up and go – energy costs are rising again.

In the ratio of basic metabolism and everyday activity, the preponderance is by no means in favor of the latter. For those who are not used to bothering themselves with physical education, the ratio will be approximately 80/20. That is, 80% of the daily energy expenditure has nothing to do with exercise and sleep. And the remaining 20 (or more if you exercise regularly), by and large, also weakly correlate with the rest regime. You trained in the morning, ate in the afternoon – the body, in any case, will calculate everything separately and bring the balance. You will see the result on the scales – plus or minus.

what to eat late at night when hungry

See also: Calorie Calculator and Formulas Don’t Work

Moreover, you can focus not even on the daily calorie ratio, but on the weekly one. Let’s say you ate moderately and exercised a lot from Monday to Wednesday. And from Thursday to Sunday, the opposite: more attention was paid to food, not physical exercises. So if the calorie deficit created at the beginning of the week turns out to be greater than the surplus at the end, then the final result on the scales will still please you. So there is no reason to worry about the fact that you have a hearty dinner. If during the day you have moved a lot, have done a workout, and the calories eaten before bed are within the daily norm, everything will be fine.

eat at night

Sleep Does Not Pause Metabolism

From the point of view of calorie-energy mathematics, everything is in order: you can eat at night. But “can” does not always mean optimal. At night, the metabolism slows down and the digestion of food stops, right? If this were really so, then humanity would hardly have lasted until today. The process of digesting food, especially those rich in fats, can take ten hours or more. That is, those who seek to fall asleep at 11 pm on a completely empty stomach must get up from the table at 1 pm. And after all, we are talking about digestion only in the stomach, and there are other departments in which the process continues.

Then, perhaps, during sleep, the body inhibits digestion forcibly and leaves food ingested without proper attention? And this version has not been confirmed as a result of scientific experiments. If some slowdown does occur, then it is of an uncritical nature. In addition, a number of studies show that the secretion of gastric juice occurs most intensively between 10 pm and 2 am. And it doesn’t matter whether a person is sleeping at this moment or not.

what to eat at night when hungry

Is Eating Before Bed Bad?

Somebody may object to me: a hearty dinner prevents you from falling asleep normally and does not allow you to get enough sleep. This is quite possible! Here, individual characteristics, preferences, and habits come to the fore. The fact is that our body is designed with a huge margin of safety and fantastic adaptability. There are a lot of examples. Let’s take from the same area of ​​digestion.

Let’s say those who adhere to vegetarianism or veganism suddenly eat a piece of meat. And quite rightly they will complain of heaviness in the stomach and other unpleasant symptoms. Conclusion – meat is harmful and unnatural for us? Not at all. It’s just that the body of these people has adapted differently and has forgotten how to secrete those enzymes that are necessary for the digestion of animal food. But if vegetarians begin to gradually return meat dishes to their diet, then the body will rebuild and soon the unpleasant symptoms will disappear.

So eating before bed is harmful or not? In terms of body composition, calorie intake and expenditure throughout the day and week will rule here. Therefore, you need to listen to yourself. For example, conduct a simple experiment. For a couple of evenings, have a hearty dinner, and for the next two days, limit yourself to a light snack 2-3 hours before bedtime. And compare your own feelings: in which case did you manage to sleep better and recover. So you can most competently answer the question about eating before bed, based on the needs of the body, and not on horror stories about fasting after 6 pm.

Find more info here – How to Lose Weight Fast — In-Depth Guide

couple eating before bad

Pure Scientific Facts About Eating Before Bed

Eating in the middle of the night leads to weight gain

We know this from studies of the eating habits of obese people and the experience of nutritionists. Sleep researchers at Northwestern University have published the results of their animal experiments, which make it clear why eating during the part of the day when we usually sleep makes us more obese.

The researchers experimented with male mice by placing them in the dark for 12 hours a day and in sufficient light for 12 hours. Mice, unlike humans, are nocturnal animals, and therefore are active at night. Usually, mice eat at night, and we eat during the day. But technological innovations such as the electric lamp, television, deep-frozen pizza, and microwave ovens have changed our eating habits. More and more people eat more often during the late evening and night. The researchers wondered if this unnatural eating pattern was related to the obesity epidemic. The researchers designed an experiment with 17 C57BL / 6J mice. They gave one group of these mice food only when it was light, and the other group only when it was dark. The food was high in fat in order to more quickly affect the change in the weight of the rodents.


Experiment results

The figure below shows that mice with an “unnatural” diet (daylight hours) gained more weight than mice in the other group.

eating before bed research

And this figure shows that mice that ate when they were supposed to sleep consumed slightly more calories than if they ate while awake (dotted line against the solid at the top of the graph). However, the difference is not very big. The effect on their activity level is much greater: mice that ate at “unnatural” times moved less and, therefore, consumed less energy (dotted line versus the solid line at the bottom of the graph). That is, the recorded changes are associated with the impact on the energy balance.

eating before bed study

The higher energy consumption, the lower energy expenditure.

Scientists’ conclusion on late-night eating

A preventive strategy based on behavioral changes (eg mealtimes), perhaps without significantly altering calorie intake or physical activity, can be critical to slowing the ever-increasing incidence of obesity and associated cardiometabolic disorders facing modern peace,” the researchers conclude.

Source: Circadian Timing of Food Intake Contributes to Weight Gain. Deanna M. Arble Joseph Bass Aaron D. Laposky. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Nov;17(11):2100-2.


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