Late-Night Eating: Doing it Right
People who eat the main part of their daily menu at night have higher BMI (body mass indices) than those who mainly eat during the day. This is what a 2007 study published by the International Journal of Obesity revealed. But isn’t it the total calorie intake that makes the difference?
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published another study, which showed that member of the experimental group, who ate during the time period between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., put on more weight than those in the control group, who abstained from eating within the said hours. What is wrong with munching at night?
Sum it Up or Balance it Out
Turns out, it’s the balance of proteins, fats and carbs that matters, not the total amount of calories.
Here’s how the mechanism works: popular late-night snacks are chips and ice cream, and these are high-fat and high-sugar foods. They raise your blood sugar level and give your body a sugar crash – that special fatigue one gains after eating lots of carbs. Only at night you are lying down and your body does not convert those sugars into energy - it stores them in the fat cells instead.
Eating to the Rhythm
If you are already considering restocking your fridge shelves with healthier snacks, we have to discourage you: eating at night upsets your body’s circadian rhythm even if you do not consume excess calories.
Night is for Sleep
Simply put, circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle of the physiological processes that take place in every living being’s body. For example, insulin – the hormone that assists in blood sugar delivery for your body’s cells to use as fuel – functions in accord with the circadian rhythm. When you are asleep, you don’t need energy, so at night your body’s cells are less receptive to the hormone, as a 2013 Current Biology study of animals revealed.
Heartburn of the Matter
Late-night meals can also cause heartburn: when you are lying down, food from the stomach refluxes into your esophagus. Not compatible with good sleep, right?
People with metabolic dysfunction have a different sleep-affecting problem - eating before bed makes blood-sugar levels plummet at night waking you up and making it very hard to go back to sleep.
Disrupted sleep lowers the levels of hunger-blunting hormones and raises those that trigger hunger, a 2013 study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals. Put everything together and you’ll get high blood sugar levels leading to insulin resistance and fat accumulation and, as a result, Type 2 diabetes.
The conclusion is further supported by a worldwide meta-analysis conducted by Sleep: it showed that 634 thousand people who did not get enough sleep were prone to or already suffered from obesity.
Doing it Right
If you ARE hungry – eat. Your body knows what it is asking for. Suppressing hunger will only lower your blood sugar level, leading to stronger cravings and, finally, to binge-eating. Just be smarter than your hunger - know how to help your body:
- Stop eating two hours before you go to sleep to let your body digest food more effectively – it can only happen in the upright position.
- Abstain from high-sugar and high-fat foods, though. Always have a healthy snack loaded with protein: it will gently raise your blood sugar level and let it drop quickly when morning comes.
- Load your kitchen with protein-packed snacks: almonds, veggies and guacamole or hummus dip, Greek yogurt with cinnamon or low-fat cottage cheese and tomatoes.