Late Night Eating: What’s the Verdict?

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

I want to preface this blog with a note that in the next week or so my blogging might be a little erratic (like it was last week). I am getting married this Saturday, yay for me, so my attention has been on that. I promise to return with a vengeance once we get home from our Honeymoon. I already have some really good ideas lined up, so stay tuned!

OK, on to the actual blog. I get a lot of questions from people about food timing and things of that nature, especially from my recent post about an example of my actual intake. I already answered one question from that post, so here is another that I think can benefit a lot of people.

Q: What time do you go to bed? Your 9:30 late dinner seems like a lot of food since you’ll be asleep when your body is processing it. Do you have a high metabolism and this is a way to keep weight on?

It obviously works for you but I’m curious your thinking on a meal so close to bedtime.

Thanks.

A: I usually go to bed between 10 and 11 PM, and I am usually ravenous when I get home around 9. The point I want to address here is the part about me being asleep while my body processes the food. So what? The body still needs energy while I sleep, we still burn hundreds of calories while sleeping. Contrary to some weird popular dogma, the body doesn’t stop utilizing energy late at night. While it is true that our ability to utilize carbs is diminished near our bedtimes, it isn’t gone, and we can certainly still use protein and fat just fine.

I don’t know if this is from Oprah or something, but there is absolutely no need to stop eating after 6pm or whatever the idea is. If you consume a diet rich in high quality foods and nutrients and expend more calories than you take in, you will be just fine.

Look at it this way, lets say you need 3,000 calories to maintain your weight, but you are looking to drop a few pounds. So you do some research that says that you need to consume plenty of water, some lean protein, and not eat after 6pm, and you are golden. You eat all your meals before 6 everyday, getting plenty of lean protein and water, and yet somehow you aren’t losing the weight. If you are still consuming 3,000 calories, regardless of timing, it does not matter! Timing is important and can be utilized effectively, but only if total calories are accounted for.

That last meal of the day fits into my caloric needs to maintain my weight, and that is it. I am hungry, I want to eat, the extra cals fit into my needs, so I consume them, end of story. There is nothing fancy, no ultra-fast metabolism (trust me, I don’t have one of those), it is just a meal that satisfies all of my needs.

Now don’t take this to mean that you can eat just anything for before bed and you will magically be ok. I tried to make it very clear that my last meal fits into my dietary needs, it may not fit into yours. Know what your requirements are. This is not free reign to pound down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, no matter how tempting.

Not a bed-time snack

Not a bed-time snack

I hope that helped clear up another myth that drives me absolutely nuts. If you have any questions, feel free!

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Posted on October 5th, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre

5 Comments

  1. Arden Says:

    First – congratulations on the wedding!

    Disclaimer: I do NOT watch Oprah and certainly don’t get nutrition advice from her show. God help me if I did.

    That tidbit I made about not eating close to bed came from my extension of advice made by a Precision Nutrition coach. I think the reasoning was that if you are trying to lose weight, why have a meal or even a snack right before bed if it’s really not needed (you’ll be asleep and not know you’re hungry). Basically, I think the reasoning is that if you can skip those calories then that will help you with the weight loss. Of course if going to bed slightly hungry leads to night eating (waking up and heading to the fridge) or waking up ravenous and not ready to work out, you wouldn’t want to do that.

    I find that I make my worst nutrition decisions after 8 PM when my “little snack” turns into a sleeve of crackers, ice cream, handfulls of peanuts, etc.

    As you said, the important take-away here is to make sure the meal/snack is compliant and fits into my overall eating plan.

  2. Jack Says:

    Brian,

    As Arden mentioned, congratulations to you and your bride-to-be. All the best to you both- now and WELL into the future.

    As far as eating close to bedtime, I’ve never had an issue, if, as you said, it fits into your needs. I suppose the only question about eating close to bed time is if digestion will be at all impaired while sleeping or if that is a non-issue so long as you’re not eating a massive meal composed of many difficult-to-digest foods.

  3. Glenn Says:

    Congrats on the wedding! Will the cake me made of carrots and hummus? :)

  4. Concerned Wedding Guest Says:

    I see hummus on that cake and I’m taking back my gift Brian.

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