Does the kitchen call out your name at night? Do you find that your food cravings get stronger as you approach the witching hour? Is it a healthy habit to eat food after 8 pm? How about having the occasional midnight snack? What really happens when you do this?
Questions, questions and more questions.
As with most things in the weight loss industry, there is much debate about this topic too. Some experts state that you should not eat before bedtime because the body does not need a lot of fuel at night, which results in most of this food being converted to fat.
On the other hand some experts argue that it is your total caloric consumption that matters and not the time the calories are consumed. So who is right?
Studies have shown a link between eating late at night and weight gain. Up to 14% of people seeking treatment at obesity clinics in the USA reported eating at night and about 27% of severely obese individuals admitted to late night binge eating.
The reason for this is that the body uses fewer calories at night than during the day. Furthermore, your body doesn’t treat its caloric consumption mathematically or like a computer but instead, it just makes use of calories as and when it needs them.
If you take too much food all at night, your insulin levels will spike and you will gain more fat. It would be advisable to avoid insulin spikes and keep your insulin levels at a steady state especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Another issue is that the cortisol levels in the body are at their peak at night while the body’s sensitivity and ability to handle insulin is at its lowest. In a nutshell, you are more predisposed to weight gain.
Does that mean you can’t eat anything at night?
You can still eat food at night but just need to make sure it has a low glycemic index like nuts, protein or some vegetables. It is vitally important to know that insulin spikes are the major culprit that causes weight gain. If you are able to keep the insulin levels stable, that’s half the battle won.
Everyone is different and unique when it comes to weight loss. While the principles of weight loss are the same, our bodies respond differently. Eating at night may affect some people and cause them gain weight while it will not affect others in that way at all. This is a possible reason why the experts may be having a tough time reaching an agreement on this one.
The rule of thumb is this – If you are not losing weight or even gaining the pounds despite your efforts, it might be time to do away with the late night meals. On the other hand if you are losing weight and still eating at night, it implies that your body can handle the late meals. If that’s the case, carry on and be happy.
There is a special scenario in which you are permitted to eat at night even if you are gaining weight.
It is when you are doing intermittent fasting. During intermittent fasting, you rotate between fasting and eating in order to lose weight. When you are fasting, the insulin levels in your body drop while the levels of growth hormone increase.
This style of fasting is so powerful that the effects of insulin sensitivity are a non-issue. You can eat at night or at any other time depending on how you have scheduled your fasting schedule.
You must do what works for you. The weight loss industry will always be coming up with new strategies and opinions. What really matters is that you adopt what works for you and discard what doesn’t, Track your progress and aim to lose weight steadily.
‘Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own’ – Bruce Lee