WILL EATING AT NIGHT MAKE YOU FAT?
There are approximate 5,999,999,999 diet plans on the market and a new one is being invented at this moment. Yes, right this moment. It’s probably called the “Why don’t racehorses get fat?” diet and promises that you can "Eat like a racehorse and lose 50 lbs in 50 days!" Ummm, okay.
But, whether it's the “eat chocolate” diet or the “eat for your horoscope” diet, all weight loss plans have one little detail in common. The marketers don't like to talk about it because - well because it's boring. It's called... Calories.
If you need to keep your average daily caloric intake at 1200 to lose or maintain your weight, then a late night snack, IF IT EXCEEDS THAT GOAL, is not going to be your friend. But (I love that word), if you plan that nighttime munchie with your overall caloric goal in mind, you can avoid one of the most unpleasant aspects of dieting - going to bed hungry!
While there are definitely a variety of factors involved with weight loss and how our bodies process food, caloric intake is still king of the hill. A typical slice of cheese pizza is roughly 300 calories - and it will still have 300 calories whether we eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or right before we hop into bed.
If you consistently take in the amount of calories needed to gain, maintain or lose weight, - surprise - over time you will gain, maintain or lose weight. Whatever diet plan you are following - calories still matter. If you sleep better with "a little something" in your tummy - and most of us do - check the calorie count before you check the clock
Just keep in mind that all late night munchies are not created equal.
If you suffer from gastric reflux (GERD) you definitely want to avoid having a full stomach before going to bed. However, this has more to do with the position of your body (lying down) while your food is still in the early digestive stages.
It takes an average of 40 hours (from tip to tail so to speak) to fully digest most foods. That means, unless you are fasting, your body is pretty much always in a state of digestion. Some foods simply break down faster and easier in the early stage - the part where the food is still in your tummy. Since the digestion process slows to a near crawl during sleep, eating a full or heavy meal close to bedtime is not the best idea for getting a restful sleep.
But, on the other side of the pillow, being hungry can not only prevent you from falling asleep, it can also keep you from enjoying an uninterrupted and restful sleep.
The solution? Avoiding the wrong foods (like that slice of pizza) and eating the right foods can actually help you fall asleep. The right late night snack can also promote better, longer, and more restorative sleep. And, getting a full night's sleep on a regular basis helps with weight loss - so it's a win/win.
SAY "YES" TO CARBS AS A BEDTIME SNACK
We think of carbs primarily as food for energy. So, it makes sense to assume we only need carbs during the part of the day when we are most active - and then avoid them during the evening when we are most sedentary.
But, the coolest thing about food is that it is multi-functional. So while there are some carbs that we want to eat early in the day for energy, there are also carbs we want to eat close to bedtime to help promote sleep.
And, eating the RIGHT carbs at night will actually increase your ability to lose fat if you’re restricting calories.
SAY "NO" TO WINE AT BEDTIME
Whether we are trying to lose weight or not, having wine - or any alcoholic beverage - is a bad idea close to bedtime. While alcohol will help you to relax and fall asleep easier, it interferes with the REM stage of sleep. Enjoy that antioxidant-rich relaxing glass of red wine at dinner - but skip it as a nightcap.
Ideally, we want a combination of foods that are high in tryptophan and serotonin, lean protein and complex carbs.
Some foods, such as bread, pasta and chips are high in refined carbs and will lower serotonin levels - not what we want at bedtime. Also on the no-no list are high-fat foods which can disturb your sleep cycle. And, of course, foods and drinks containing caffeine don't make ideal snacks within 3-4 hours of bedtime.
Whole grains, seeds, and nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, oats and tart cherries, dairy foods such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, bananas and sweet potatoes all make the nighttime nosh list. Even if you’re not on a diet, that’s the right mix for the ultimate “feel good/relax/sleep like a baby/wake up rested” night time snack.