Almost everyone has been in a scenario where they are craving a late-night snack, and knowing they should probably avoid it. Many may give in to their urges and go for it, but is this really as bad for us as people say?
How it Effects Digestion
Whether it is a late-night snack or a very late dinner, eating directly before bed is usually not the best. Going to bed directly after a meal does not give your body the proper amount of time to fully digest the food that was just consumed. In some cases, this can lead to indigestion or heart burn, which can lead to restless nights. Your body is most comfortable and efficient digesting food in the upright position. Studies have shown that laying down after a meal can actually double the length of time it takes for digestion. Immediately laying down after eating, may be a root cause of the indigestion issues.
Late Night Snacks and Weight Loss
Some people often fear weight gain from eating directly before bed. However there are a few factors that can determine how a late night snack may impact weight. Eating a meal with a high calorie count at night may cause weight gain, due to the difficulty digesting. As general rule, weight loss diets are based on a caloric deficit, meaning consuming less calories then you expend during the day. Having a large meal at the end of the day may put you over the calorie amount for the day. Controlling your portion sizes can be critical for dinner, as by that point you are not likely to expend many more calories that day.
When considering this, it is important to remember that not all foods are created equal. Eating 3 slices of cheese pizza before bed is vastly different from a serving of celery sticks before bed. If late-night eating is unavoidable for whatever reason, there are some food options that are definitely better than others. Try to go with foods that have a balance of carbohydrates and proteins, and contain fiber. If you are going to eat late at night opting for a smaller portion size of more easily digestible food is the optimal choice.
Whole-grain crackers with cheese, high-fiber cereal with milk or Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of granola, are all great snack options, keeping those in the house instead of cookies and sweet desserts may help keep you on track. A casein protein shake is a great supplement choice for later in the evening. Casein is a slow-digesting protein, meaning it releases amino acids into the body over a longer period of time, which helps promote a full feeling for a prolonged period.
There are also foods that may enhance sleep. Sweet potatoes and almonds are high in things like calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan, while walnuts are naturally high in melatonin. These can help induce a relaxed state. If you need to snack at night, these options may actually help you get a better nights sleep.
In general, it is recommended that you wait for 2 to 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime. This allows digestion to occur and the contents of your stomach to move into your small intestine. Eating late at night will not hurt if it happens every so often. However, making a habit of eating heavy, unhealthy meals before bed can quickly become detrimental. If you are going to eat late try for small nutrient dense foods that won’t be difficult for your body to digest.