If you’re looking to lose weight you may want to reconsider that bedtime snack. Matt Roth, MD, a family and sports medicine doctor with ProMedica Physicians, says it could be hurting your weight loss efforts.
“Eating late interferes with your body’s ability to appropriately utilize the calories you’re consuming,” Dr. Roth explains.
During the day, your body expedites digestion, consuming typically half to 3/4 of the calories as it goes through your system. At night, when you’re sleeping, things move more slowly.
“Think of your digestive tract as a sponge,” suggests Dr. Roth. “Your body can squeeze out every calorie over night as the food moves slowly through the digestive tract, as opposed to when you’re awake and active and it’s moving through your system more quickly.”
Foregoing the snack may benefit the quality of your sleep, too. “Most adult Americans are in a sleep-deprived state, not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night,” says Dr. Roth. Unfortunately, a late night snack can make the situation worse. “Eating before bed wakes the body up, and stimulates hormones in the brain that says there’s still more work to be done to digest the food.”
The effect is poor quality sleep, which can be the start of an unhealthy eating cycle. Poor sleep affects the hormones your body produces to handle stress. Cortisol hormone levels get reset with sleep but when they aren’t reset properly, it affects metabolism. In addition, being tired throws off our internal “hunger thermostat” and we find ourselves eating to keep ourselves going throughout the day, explains Dr. Roth.
Of course, everyone’s digestive system and metabolism work differently. But generally speaking, Dr. Roth suggests cutting off snacks about three hours before bedtime. After that, if you must eat, stick to snacks that are 100-200 calories, which is enough to get you through the night if you’re sleeping.
“Avoid snacks that will spike your energy and wear off quickly,” says Dr. Roth. “Opt for protein, instead, which will keep you feeling fuller, longer.”
So some crackers with peanut butter may be okay to munch on if your stomach’s rumbling. But that ice cream? That’s a different story.
Do you snack before bedtime? Tell us your go-to snack in the comments below.