It is easy to fall for catchy phrases and perceived social norms surrounding how we should act to receive desired health results. A commonly sought after health result is low body fat, and boy does it have some taboos!
One of the socially accepted “rules” regarding body fat gain and loss is
“Don’t eat past 8pm”
Not true. Well, not ALWAYS true. You must take into consideration many factors, including why you are eating, what you are eating, how much you already ate and are planning to eat.
If you are eating late in the evening because you are hungry or you just got through a bout of exercise then this isn’t a bad thing. You most likely need the energy for recovery from the day’s activities and proper blood sugar and hormones regulation through the night.
Taking the time to determine if it is truly hunger or some other emotion or driving force to eat later in the evening is not always the easiest thing to do, however.
Being aware of your body hunger cues and other emotional states (sleepy, bored, stressed) is a key to successfully eating without negative consequences. When you last ate, how active you were that day and evening are things to think about to help you decide hunger level and if you should eat later into the evening.
If eating is not warranted, then the myth that late night eating equals fat gain is more likely to be true.
Eating late at night has been associated not only with fat gain, but also heart burn and poor sleep. What types of foods you consume before or close to bed time can make a large difference on if you experience these.
Here are the foods to stay away from close to bed time to avoid these undesired outcomes.
- Spicy (sliding scale to individual tolerance)
- Greasy/fatty (fried food, fatty meats and cheese, some chips and crackers or baked goods)
- High fiber (raw veggies, whole beans)
- High concentrated sugar (deserts, candies, some baked goods)
- Caffeine (chocolate, coffee, tea)
Best evening options= easily digested foods (for you) with a little protein to control release of glucose and avoid waking hungry in the middle of the night.
Here are some good examples to have if you are hungry, just exercised, or ate much earlier in the evening and know you won’t make it through the night without some food:
- Milk or yogurt
- Peanut butter and graham crackers
- Cheese and apple
- Mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Air or stove popped popcorn
If you determine in the evening that you will be eating, there is also the how much factor to consider.
Too much of anything can be a bad thing, as they say.
Larger amounts of food, regardless of the type of food, has the potential to:
- Put you over your personal energy needs for that day and/or night.
- Disturb your sleep and/or cause heart burn.
The Takeaway is don’t worry about when you eat in the evening, but focus on why, what and how much for best results!
Stay tuned for more fat myths to be scrutinized and debunked, including:
“If you eat fat, you will get fat” and…
“The longer you spend exercising in the “fat burning” zone the more fat you will burn”
Gallant, A. R., Lundgren, J. and Drapeau, V. (2012), The night-eating syndrome and obesity. Obesity Reviews, 13: 528–536. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00975.x
Meule A, Allison KC, Platte P. (2014), Emotional eating moderates the relationship of night eating with binge eating and body mass. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 22(2):147-51. doi: 10.1002/erv.2272.
Stephen H. Boutcher , High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity. Volume 2011, Article ID 868305, 10 pages. doi:10.1155/2011/868305