Is it bad to eat before bed?

Many people think it is a bad idea to eat before bedtime.

This often comes from the belief that eating before going to sleep leads to weight gain. However, some claim that a snack at bedtime can help a diet to lose weight.

So, what should you believe? The truth is that the answer is not the same for everyone. It depends a lot on the individual.

Eating before bed is controversial

Whether or not you should eat before bedtime, defined as between dinner and bedtime, has become a hot topic in nutrition.

Conventional wisdom says that eating before bed causes weight gain because your metabolism slows down when you fall asleep. This causes undigested calories to be stored as fat.

However, many health experts say that eating before bed is perfectly fine and can even improve sleep or weight loss.

Therefore, it is not surprising that many people are confused.

Part of the problem is that the evidence in this regard seems to support both parties.

Although many people believe that a slower metabolism during sleep leads to weight gain, your basal nighttime metabolic rate equals that of the day. Your body still needs a lot of energy while you sleep (1, 2).

There is also no evidence to support the idea that calories count more before bedtime than at any other time of the day.

However, despite the fact that there seems to be no physiological reason, several studies have linked pre-bedtime nutrition with weight gain (3, 4, 5).

So what is going on here? The reason probably is not what you expect.

Bottom line: Eating before bed is controversial. Although there seems to be no physiological reason why eating before bed causes weight gain, several studies have found evidence that it could do so.

Eating before bed can lead to unhealthy habits

Current evidence does not show any physiological reason why eating before bed should cause weight gain. However, several studies show that people who eat before going to bed are more likely to gain weight (3, 4, 5).

The reason for this is much simpler than you would expect.

It turns out that people who eat before going to bed are more likely to gain weight simply because a sandwich at bedtime is an extra meal and, therefore, extra calories.

Not only that, but the night is the time of day when many people tend to feel more hungry. This makes it even more likely that a snack at bedtime ends up pressing your calorie intake on your daily calorie needs (5, 6).

Add the fact that most people like to eat snacks at night while watching television or working on their laptops, and it's not surprising that these habits can lead to weight gain.

Some people are also very hungry before going to bed because they do not eat enough during the day.

This extreme hunger can cause a cycle of eating too much before going to bed, then being too full to eat a lot the next morning and again being too hungry before going to bed the next night (7).

This cycle, which can easily lead to overeating and weight gain, highlights the importance of making sure you eat enough during the day.

For most people, the problem of eating at night is do not That your metabolism changes to the storage of calories in the form of fat at night. In contrast, weight gain is caused by the unhealthy habits that often accompany snacks at bedtime.

Bottom line: In most cases, eating before bed only causes weight gain due to eating habits while watching television or eating too many extra calories before bedtime.

Eating before bed is bad if you have reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition that affects both 20-48% of western populations. It occurs when stomach acid splashes back into your throat (8, 9).

Symptoms include heartburn, difficulty swallowing, a lump in the throat, or worsening asthma at night (3, 10).

If you have any of these symptoms, you can avoid eating snacks before bedtime.

Eating before going to bed can make symptoms worse because having a full stomach when lying down makes it much easier for stomach acid to splash down the throat (9).

Therefore, if you have reflux, it is a good idea to avoid eating something for at least 3 hours before going to bed (11, 12).

Also, you may want to avoid drinking or eating anything that contains caffeine, alcohol, tea, chocolate or spicy spices. All these foods can aggravate the symptoms.

Bottom line: People who have reflux should not eat anything for at least 3 hours before bedtime. They may also want to avoid trigger foods, which can worsen the symptoms.

Eating before bed may have some benefits

While eating before bedtime may not be the best idea for some people, it may be beneficial for others.

You can stop nighttime feeding and help lose weight

Some evidence suggests that, instead of causing weight gain, eating a snack at bedtime can help some people lose weight.

If you are a person who tends to eat a large part of your calories during the night (usually after bedtime), having a snack after dinner can help control your desire to eat snacks during the night (13, 14).

In a 4-week study with adults who ate nightly snacks, participants who began eating a bowl of cereal and milk 90 minutes after dinner consumed an average of 397 fewer calories per day (14).

In the end, they lost an average of 1.85 pounds (0.84 kilograms) only with this change (14).

This study suggests that adding a small snack after dinner can help make nighttime snacks satisfied enough to eat less than they would otherwise. Over time, you may also have the possible benefit of losing weight.

It can help you sleep better

There has not been much research on this subject, but many people report that eating something before bedtime helps them sleep better or prevents them from waking up hungry at night.

This makes sense, since a snack before bedtime can help you feel full and satisfied during the night (6, 15, 16).

Getting enough sleep is extremely important, and lack of sleep itself has been linked to overeating and gaining weight (5, 16, 17).

There is no evidence that a small, healthy snack before going to bed leads to weight gain.

Therefore, if you feel that eating something before bedtime helps you fall asleep or stay asleep, then you should feel good about doing so.

It can stabilize the blood sugar in the morning

In the morning, your liver starts making extra glucose (blood sugar) to give you the energy you need to get up and start the day.

This process hardly produces changes in blood sugar in people without diabetes. However, some people with diabetes can not make enough insulin to remove extra glucose from the blood.

For this reason, diabetics usually wake up in the morning with a high blood sugar level, even if they have not eaten anything since the night before. This is called the phenomenon of dawn (18, 19).

Other people may experience nocturnal hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar during the night, which can disturb sleep (20).

If you experience any of these phenomena, you may need to talk to your doctor to adjust your medication.

In addition, some studies have suggested that a snack before bedtime can help prevent these changes in blood sugar by providing an additional source of energy to help you stay overnight (20, 21, 22).

However, the research is mixed, so it can not be recommended at all.

If you experience high or low blood sugar levels in the morning, talk to your doctor or dietitian to see if a bedtime snack is a good idea for you.

Bottom line: Taking a snack at bedtime can have some benefits, such as making you eat less at night or sleep better. It may also help keep your blood sugar stable.

What should you eat before going to bed?

For most people, it is perfectly right to eat a snack before bedtime.

There is not a recipe for the perfect sandwich for bedtime, but there are some things you should keep in mind.

Avoid desserts and junk food

While eating before bedtime is not necessarily a bad thing, it is not a good idea to carry traditional desserts or junk food like ice cream, cake or chips.

These foods, which are high in unhealthy fats and added sugars, cause cravings and overeating. They make it very easy to exceed your daily calorie needs.

Eating before going to bed does not necessarily make you gain weight, but filling yourself with these high-calorie foods before going to bed can do it, and you really should avoid them.

If you have a sweet tooth, try some berries or some squares of dark chocolate (unless the caffeine bothers you). Or, if salty snacks are what you prefer, instead have a handful of nuts.

Combine carbohydrates with proteins or fats

No food is necessarily the "best" to have a snack before bedtime. However, a couple of complex carbohydrates and proteins, or a little fat, is probably a good way to do it (20, 22).

Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, give you a constant source of energy as you fall asleep.

Combining that with protein or a small amount of fat can help keep you satisfied all night and keep your blood sugar stable.

However, these combinations may also have other benefits.

Some evidence suggests that eating a meal rich in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index before going to bed can help you fall asleep (23, 24, 25).

This is because carbohydrates can improve the transport of the amino acid tryptophan, which can be converted into neurotransmitters that help regulate sleep (23).

The same effect may be true for foods rich in tryptophan, such as dairy, fish, chicken or red meat (23, 24, 25).

Some evidence also indicates that a high-fat meal can improve the quality of sleep (25).

Some snack ideas include an apple with peanut butter, whole grain crackers and a slice of turkey or cheese and grapes.

Bottom line: Eating a sandwich before bed is fine for most people, but you should try to avoid junk food and desserts. A combination of carbohydrates and proteins or fats is a good rule to follow.

Should you eat before bed?

The answer to whether or not it is a bad idea to eat before bedtime really depends on you and your habits.

It is not a good idea to make a habit of eating sandwiches with unhealthy foods before bedtime. It is also not wise to eat a large part of your calories during the night.

However, it is perfectly fine for most people to eat a healthy snack before going to bed.

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