You’ve probably heard that you should never eat late at night because everything you eat will turn to fat while you sleep. This may be true if you are eating ice cream and donuts before bed, but as a general rule, if you eat a balanced healthy snack or small meal before bed, those nutrients and calories will be used to fuel your metabolism and repair and rebuild damaged muscle fibers. Eating late at night can be beneficial but you need to make sure you’re following a few simple rules.
The problem with eating late at night is…
Eating unhealthy foods that cause weight gain, regardless of the time of day you eat those foods. Eating junk and empty calories at night simply multiplies the fat gaining effect that they have at any time. Rather than stressing over eating at night, focus on changing what you eat and make healthier and more natural choices.
You should not be afraid to eat when you are hungry
If you eat a small to moderate amount of healthy food, you’ll be fine. If you exercise and train regularly, it may be counter productive to NOT eat before bed. If you avoid eating after 8 PM and sleep a good eight hours, you are looking at 10-12 hours of fasting, starving your body. If weight loss is your goal, this extended fast will encourage your body to store more fat, not burn fat. If you are training to build muscle, 10-12 hours without food could be disastrous, your body will enter a catabolic state and eat your muscle fiber as fuel.
What should you eat?
If you need a meal or snack before bed, choose one under 500 calories will give you the nutrients you need to feel satisfied without sacrificing your fitness goals. Consider these simple, nutritious late night snacks:
1. Oatmeal – A simple to prepare bowl of oatmeal sweetened with organic honey or better yet, fresh fruit, can be the perfect late night snack as it is loaded with complex carbs and fiber that will leave you satisfied without feeling bloated. If you need additional protein, add a small scoop of protein powder or a glass of milk.
2. Lean Protein Sandwich – Use sprouted bread or pita, add lean protein from turkey or chicken breast, leafy greens and your favorite veggies, and thinly sliced avocado. This sandwich contains a balance of protein, complex carbs and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Simple Protein Smoothie – This is NOT a milkshake, nor is there ice cream involved. All you need is a blender, a couple of ice cubes, fresh or frozen fruit (minimal), a banana for thickness and a touch of sweetness, yogurt if you have it and a scoop of protein (Casein is preferred) if you’d like to feed your muscles tonight. I’m actually using Beachbody Performance Recover just before bed with added Shakeology Digestive Health Boost. It’s perfect for an athlete who needs great recovery and a meal before bedtime with added fiber. Add a splash of your favorite juice or milk or milk substitute and you’ll have a moderate calorie, highly nutritious bedtime meal or snack.
Remember, it’s not about when you eat, it’s more about what you eat and making smart choices.