Midnight Snacks - Should You Eat At Night?
The big debate of whether to eat or not to eat late is ongoing with many different sources weighing in on the matter. U.S. News and World Report states that midnight snacks can cause you to pack on pounds, while Born Fitness says fears about nighttime eating are misguided. While there are many different methods of keeping the pounds at bay, there are some fundamental facts on what eating at night can do to the body and how you can keep your nutrition in check.
One popular solution to late night cravings is to forego food altogether. The method is known as TRF for time restricted feeding. TRF is a form of intermittent fasting where one eats generally between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm. Courtney Peterson, assistant professor of nutrition and medicine and scientist at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center told NBC News, “What we’ve learned in the last 10-15 years is not only what you eat, but when you eat seems to matter. It doesn’t seem like the number of meals per day that you eat affects weight loss or your health in general, so unlike what you see on magazine covers, if you eat lots of meals throughout the day it’s not going to rev up your metabolism.” The idea behind TRF is that by eating the final meal earlier in the day, the body has time to metabolize it before you go to bed and then metabolizes stored fat while you sleep.
While this sounds like the ideal solution to this concern there are conflicting reports of whether or not TRF is really effective. The Weight Control Information Network claims that the time of day you eat doesn’t really affect weight gain. However, another study in Spain published by the International Journal of Obesity found that when participants ate their main meal before 3 pm, they lost more weight. So, the jury is still out if this is the best way to fight off unwanted poundage.
There is something to be said for fasting for an average period. In a 12-hour span, you can efficiently burn fat and all of the glycogen you consumed throughout the day while you sleep. Even if you aren’t trying to shed a few pounds, this is a good way to maintain your weight by keeping a set eating schedule every day. In a 2015 study in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers fed adult mice the same unhealthy diets, one group ate whenever they wanted and one group on schedule. The group that ate on schedule didn’t gain weight while the ones who were lackadaisical about meal times had to loosen their belts.
See The Light
Eating earlier in the day has more than early risers on its side. The Circadian-synced diet which is when you front-load your calories at the beginning of the day when it is light out – often helps with feeling satiated throughout the day and keeps from snack attacks or reaching for high-calorie choices. It can be linked to more than just feeling full. There may be more science to back this method up.
Nutritionist Tamara Duker Freuman presented case studies to the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics of patients whose weight improved by eating in sync with circadian rhythms. She reported to CNN that “because of circadian rhythms, there are variations in certain hormone levels, enzyme levels and glucose transporters at different parts of the day, which affects how calories, carbohydrates, and fat are metabolized.” Plus, carb loading at night can lead to depression, weight gain, and obesity, according to Harvard Health Publications.
Digestion is one of the main factors that should be taken into account when it comes to eating at night. Digesting food takes a great deal of energy, hence why you may feel sluggish after a large meal. Eating too close to bedtime within three hours can cause your body to work overtime while you are sleeping. This can keep your body from absorbing important nutrients and it can increase your heart rate which will make it harder when you’re trying to count sheep.
In addition, certain foods can keep you from getting sound sleep. Caffeine found in chocolate, like the Haagen Dazs ice cream you dipped into during that viewing of The Notebook can keep you wide awake. Spicy or greasy foods can be the culprit too. Those chimichangas from that food truck on the way home from the club might have you tossing and turning with heartburn.
The best bet is not to eat any form of calories within three hours of hitting the hay.
Aside from the previously stated information, there are other reasons why eating at night is problematic. The matter of should you eat at night is made more complicated by the type of foods most people choose to consume during this time of day. Those that recommend not eating after a certain point in the evening do so because of the food choices made late at night are usually impulses or cravings rather than nutritionally sound choices. If you are reaching for fresh veggies for a late-night snack, good on ya, but more often people choose a bowl of ice cream to satisfy a sweet tooth, a bowl of popcorn to accompany that Netflix and Chill or a pizza to soak up that pub crawl. These foods aren’t great at any hour, so they certainly aren’t a good habit of eating between dinner and donning your nightcap. If you’re adding these in after-hours, you will be consuming more unhealthy food and calories than if you stopped eating after your supper.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you are jonesing for some late night junk food. Your lack of willpower may not be entirely your fault according to the journal Obesity. In 2013 they studied a group of adults for a 13-day period, who were kept in a dimly lit area and fed on a regular 24-hour schedule. The subjects not only reported they were hungrier at 8 pm than at 8 am, but also that they had a hankering for sweet and salty foods.
Head that hunger off at the pass. The best course of action to keep yourself from getting the munchies before bedtime is to eat well-balanced meals throughout the course of the day. If you find yourself ravenous right before you retire for the evening, try to limit yourself to a nutritious option, like a fruit bowl or a protein shake. For example, SFH’s protein products are absorbed by the body quickly and are a great option for quelling that hunger in a delicious way.