We’ve all heard that eating 3 hours before bed can lead to weight gain – but do we really know why?
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter when you eat, but rather what you eat. At the end of the day, all of your body’s systems need a break from performing their functions — including your digestive organs. Eating a large meal — especially one high in fat and carbohydrates signals your digestive organs to work very hard. If you aren’t going to be burning those extra calories, your body stores the excess calories as fat.
Our goal at night should be to replenish, restore and build new cells. If your body is too busy breaking down food particles; it won’t have time to regenerate, thus leaving you feeling lethargic and cranky in the morning. This is the same reason it’s not recommended to exercise before bed.
In addition to avoiding exercise right before bed, you should also refrain from sweets, caffeine and spicy foods before bedtime. These foods act as a stimulant on the body, revving it up instead of calming it down. Spicy foods can also create heartburn and prevent a good’s night’s sleep
If you are not eating enough healthy calories throughout the day, you’re going to set yourself up for a late night binge! You will probably binge because you are truly hungry! Instead, practice eating 4-5 small meals per day every 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Eat a variety of healthy lean protein, fiber, carbohydrates and good fats. This will in fact keep your body burning fat all day.
If you are feeling hungry at night, stick to foods that are easy to digest and high in protein. Protein rich foods that contain tryptophan will convert to serotonin in the body which induces sleep and prevents waking.
My favorite meal before bed is a protein shake. The purpose of eating protein directly before bedtime is to leave the body in a high metabolic state throughout the overnight fasting period. This is due to the fact that the consumption of slow-digesting amino acids keeps the body busy. It can take up to a few hours to fully digest protein and then metabolize the amino acids in the liver. This requires energy. Protein is also known to be filling, which should alleviate hunger during the night and keep you relatively satiated until morning.
Keeping the metabolism active and the body satiated should burn calories and prevent overeating as you approach the first meal of the day. It can also prevent muscle catabolism during the nighttime hours. Muscle catabolism is the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy, which may occur if you reach a very low energy state.