Many of us eat before hitting the bed. Is it ok to do so? Many people think it’s a bad idea to eat before bed. This often comes from the belief that eating before you go to sleep leads to weight gain. On the other hand, some opine that a bedtime snack can actually support a weight loss diet. So what is the truth? The answer isn’t the same for everyone. It depends a lot on an individual. On metabolic front, inside us, we all are different

Eating Before Bed Is Indeed Controversial

Whether or not you should eat before bed the time between dinner and bedtime] is a billion dollar question. Conventional wisdom says that eating before bed causes weight gain because your metabolism slows down when you fall asleep. This causes any undigested calories to be stored as fat. Yet some health experts confirm that eating before bed is perfectly fine and may even improve sleep and even promote weight loss. Due to these conflicting schools of thought many people are incurably confused.

The problem is that the evidence on the matter actually appears to support both sides. Although many believe that a slower metabolism during sleep leads to weight gain yet evidence suggests that your night time basal metabolic rate remains the same as during the day. Your body still needs plenty of energy while you sleep.

Also calories do not count more before bedtime than they do at any other time of the day. Yet despite the fact that there seems to be no physiological reason why, several studies have linked eating before bed with weight gain.

Does eating before bed lead to weight gain?

The current evidence shows no physiological reason why eating before bed should cause weight gain. However, several studies show that those who eat before bed are more likely to gain weight. It turns out that people who eat before bed are more likely to gain weight simply because a bedtime snack is an extra meal and, therefore, extra calories and the body will be in a resting mode for 7-8 hrs of sleep.

Moreover, the evening is the time of the day when many people tend to feel the hungriest. This makes it even more likely that a bedtime snack will end up pushing your calorie intake over. Add the fact that most people like to snack at night while watching TV or working on their mobile/ laptops, and it’s no surprise that these habits might lead to weight gain. Not being 100% conscious ,they eat more inadvertently. But if you choose your snack properly, you can eat guilt free. It is not how much you eat, it is what you eat. Unknowingly we make a wrong choice and hence gain weight.

Some people also become extremely hungry before bed because they don’t eat enough during the day. Extreme hunger can cause a cycle of eating too much before bed, then being too full to eat much the next morning, and again becoming overly hungry before bed the next evening. Eat after every two to three hours. You should have knowledge of what you are eating. Unfortunately myriads of people do not have the basic knowledge and in some cases the labels on products are misleading and incorrect.

Kindly understand that the problem with eating at night is not that your metabolism switches to storing calories as fat at night. Instead, weight gain is caused by the unhealthy habits that successively accompany bedtime snacking.

Eating Before Bed May Have Some Benefits

While eating before bed may not be the best idea for some people, it can be beneficial for others. It May Curb Nighttime Eating and Aid Weight Loss. Some evidence suggests that, rather than causing weight gain, eating a bedtime snack may actually help some people lose weight. If you’re a person who tends to eat a big portion of your calories during the night (usually after going to bed), having a snack after dinner can help control your desire for nighttime snacking. Studies suggest that adding a small after-dinner snack may help night-snackers feel satisfied enough to eat less than they would otherwise. Over time, it may also have the possible benefit of weight loss.

It May Help You Sleep Better

Not much research has been done on this topic, but many people report that eating something before bed helps them sleep better or prevents them from waking up hungry during the night. This makes sense, as a snack before bed may help you feel full and satisfied during the night. Getting enough sleep is extremely important, and sleep deprivation itself has been linked to overeating and weight gain. There is no evidence that a small, healthy snack before bed leads to weight gain. Therefore, if you feel that eating something before bed helps you fall asleep or stay asleep, and then you should feel good about doing so. Go for it. Now what you eat really matters. Junk food is the villain, here.

It May Stabilize Morning Blood Sugar

In the morning, your liver starts to produce extra glucose (blood sugar) to provide you with the energy you need to get up and start the day. This process doesn’t cause much of a change in blood sugar for people without diabetes. However, some people with diabetes can’t produce enough insulin to remove the extra glucose from the blood.

For this reason, diabetics commonly wake up in the morning with high blood sugar, even if they haven’t eaten anything since the night before. This is called the Dawn Phenomenon. Other people may experience nocturnal hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar during the night, which can disturb sleep if you experience either of these phenomena, you might need to talk to your doctor about having your medication adjusted.

What should we all eat Before Bed?

For most of the people, it’s perfectly okay to have a snack before bed. There is no recipe for the perfect bedtime snack, but there are some things you should keep in mind namely:

Avoid Desserts and Junk Foods

While eating before bed is not necessarily a bad thing, loading up on traditional dessert foods or junk foods such as ice cream, pie or chips isn’t a good idea. These foods, which are high in unhealthy fats and added sugars, trigger cravings and overeating. They cause us to exceed our daily calorie needs.

Eating before bed doesn’t necessarily make you gain weight, but filling up on calorie-dense foods before bed certainly can and you should really avoid them. We should prefer nutrition dense foods.

If you have a sweet tooth, try some berries or 2 -3 squares of dark chocolate over 70% (unless the caffeine bothers you). Or, if salty snacks are what you prefer, have a handful of nuts instead. Eat cashews and ground nut in moderation. One small apple with skin and a tablespoon of almond butter is what I prefer.

Combine Carbs with Protein or healthy Fat

Pairing of complex carbs and protein, or a little healthy fat, is probably a good way to go. Complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables provide you with a steady source of energy as you fall asleep and keep your blood sugar stable.

Low fat dairy, fish, poultry or lean red meat is a good choice. Moreover, tryptophan a chemical in these foods regulates sleep. Other snack ideas include an apple with almond/peanut butter, whole grain crackers and a slice of turkey, or cheese. A combination of carbs and protein or fat is a good thing as a snack. Prefer oats[ steel cut], quinoa over wheat as it is genetically modified.

Conclusion

The answer to, whether or not it’s a bad idea, to eat before bed really depends on you and your habits. It’s not a good idea to make a habit of snacking on unhealthy foods before bed. It’s also incorrect to eat a large portion of your calories during the night. However, it’s perfectly fine to have a healthy snack before bed. Finish your eating 2 hours before you hit the bed. So eat healthy food that is low in calories, and high in protein and healthy fat. This will support good sleep no weight gain.

Prof. Surinder Kochhar (Shaun)
LPN, FCN, M.Com, CAIIB, DIM A freelance writer with 36 Years Exp. A Health Coach of University of Victoria