Is It Bad to Eat Before Bed?

When it comes to nutrition news it can be hard to sort out what is fact from fiction, or what is just the latest fad. Take for instance coffee and wine. Some studies tout them as healthy for you, in moderation of course while other studies suggest that they are actually bad for your health. It can be confusing to know what to believe. The same can be said for the debate over whether it is good or bad to eat before bed?

Is it really bad to eat before bed? This is a controversial topic among nutrition experts. Some say that eating right before bed can lead to unwanted weight gain because your metabolism slows down while you are sleeping so those calories will most likely just turn to fat instead of being burnt off.

However other experts say that eating a bedtime snack can actually help you lose weight and help you sleep better. So which is the truth?

What Does Science Say?

Usually the science behind these connections can help us make that determination, but for this particular topic, the science is complicated. While there has been no factual evidence to suggest that the calories you eat before bed count more than any other calories you eat throughout the day, there have been several studies backing up the claim that eating before bed may cause weight gain.

One possible explanation could be that the people who are most likely to eat a bedtime snack are those who tend to have the unhealthiest eating habits and this last snack of the day causes them to exceed the number of calories that should be eating.
Bedtime snacks are also less likely to be healthy choices like fruits and vegetables and more likely to be junk food like chips, candy or cake. And because they are usually eating in front of the television or laptop, they are probably not being careful of portion control. Mindless eating is always bad for the waistline.

Eating before bed can be bad for some people for other reasons than weight gain too. People who have bad reflux should never eat right before bed. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a gastrointestinal disorder where the acid in your stomach comes up your throat causing heartburn, difficulty swallowing and even a lump in the throat or the exacerbation of asthma. When you have a full stomach when you go to lie down and sleep, there is an increased chance that the stomach acid will come splashing back up your throat. Try not to eat anything at least three hours before bed and avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy food before bed.

Sometimes Its Good to Be Bad

To make things even more complicated, sometimes be bad and indulging in a bedtime snack can actually be beneficial is some ways. For people who tend to eat more calories later in the day, eating a healthy snack about two hours after dinner can help them from binging eating junk food later in the night as well as eat less calories overall according to some studies.

Another benefit is that some studies indicate that eating a bedtime snack can help people sleep better because they are feeling satiated and are more primed for sleep. It is also less likely that they will wake up in the middle of night from hunger pains.

Another thing that can disturb your sleep is low blood sugar at night referred to as nocturnal hypoglycemia. If you didn’t eat enough during the date your blood sugar levels will plummet. If you tend to experience low blood sugar in the morning, a bedtime snack may help give you better energy in the morning. Talk to your doctor first to make sure medication is not needed to stabilize your blood sugars.

The Bottom line….

The bottom line is that there is no universal blanket statement that can be made. It is really up to each individual person and their nutritional habits and overall health. Overall, most healthy people can enjoy a bedtime snack without having any ill effect as long as they are not dealing with any health issues and stick to healthy proteins, fats and carbs in a small portion size. It is not true is that your metabolism slows down while you sleep. Of course, your body in sleep state doesn’t need say the same amount of energy it needs when running a marathon, in general your basal metabolic rate stays about the same while you are sleeping as it is during the day. You actually are burning off energy while you sleep too.

Not All Bedtime Snacks Are Alike

If you find that you do reap benefits from eating a bedtime snack, keep in mind that not all bedtime snacks are alike in nutrition. Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing healthier bedtime snacks:

  • It goes without saying that you should avoid desserts and junk food, high in fat content. If you are craving something sweet try berries or a piece of dark chocolate instead. If it is salt that you crave, nuts are a healthier alternative to a bowl of chips.
  • For best results try to combine complex carbs with protein or healthy fat. An example would be peanut butter on whole grain bread or bagel, while grain crackers with a slice of turkey, some cheese and grapes or a cup of yogurt with fruit. This will help satisfy your cravings without adding unnecessary calories or fat. Foods rick in tryptophan like turkey or dairy will also help you sleep better.
  • Bananas are another good choice for a late night snack because they are a carbohydrate that is easily digestible and they are a good source of magnesium. Bananas can also help calm down stress hormones making it easier to fall asleep.
  •  Also avoid alcohol before bed. If you are going to a social outing where there will be alcohol or if you just want a nightcap after a stressful day, it is okay to have a drink or two just make sure you stop drinking a couple of hours before you go to sleep so it doesn’t mess with the quality of your sleep.

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