Eating late at night is a recipe for weight gain. In fact, eating too close to bedtime can be a downright perfect storm, slowing your metabolism and making weight management goals seem that much further from reach.
You might guess that eating late meals or snacking late at night, too close to bedtime, means that there is less planning for eating healthy food choices, and it is the type of food that we eat at night – foods high in refined starch and added sugar and fats that lead to waistline woes. And you would be correct in thinking that. Many of the food choices we eat after 8pm tend to be from unwise food sources – it has been my experience that few people binge on veggies and whole grains before bed. However, there is another factor that should gain equal attention in the warnings of late night eating: The probability that eating too close to bedtime will disrupt your quality of sleep.
Many times we overlook how sleep deprivation itself can be a huge influencer of our metabolism. Poor chronic sleep (sleeping 6 hours or less per night seems to be the trigger) not only alters glucose metabolism the next day, but also leads to appetite hormone disruption. Poor sleep makes our hunger hormone more active and suppresses our fullness hormone, leading to a hormonal cocktail that tells us to eat, eat, and eat. Not only that, but missing sleep may lower our resting energy expenditure the day after, further adding to the negative metabolic spiral. When you add elevated stress hormones to the mix along with brain fog that impairs our decision-making power to make good food choices the next day, you can start to see how important sleep quality is to the person trying to avoid gaining more weight. And eating late at night, too close to bedtime, can definitely impact our sleep habits – here are just 2 ways that can happen:
- It is more difficult to digest food when lying down. Our digestive tracts work best when we are upright – sitting, standing, or even walking. When you lie down after a late meal or snack gravity can disrupt proper digestion keeping food in the stomach. This can lead to acid reflux, or heartburn, which can hinder sleep.
- Digesting food requires the body to expend energy. This can interfere with the relaxed metabolic state required for sleep.
So the take-home point here is that, when it comes to late-night eating, it is most likely a combination of eating the wrong foods, as well as sleep disruption that can be major influencers of unwanted weight gain.
If you’d like to meet with ACHS nutritionist Chad Prouxl, give us a call at 603-444-2464.