Avoid Bedtime Bloat: What To Eat Before Bed For Losing Weight

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It’s talked about all the time. “Don’t eat before bed!” they say. “It’ll make you fat,” they say. “You’ll turn into a gremlin monster!” they say.

They’re wrong. And stupid.

In fact, you can eat at night AND lose weight if you want. You just have to eat the RIGHT foods before you go to bed. In fact, eating before you go to bed can help you recover from workouts and even help you build muscle while you sleep.

However, that doesn’t mean you can down a pint of chunky monkey and hit the sack. That’s ridiculous. Who still eats chunky monkey? What a horrible flavor.

Follow these guidelines for what you can eat before bed and you’ll be fine.

1. Don’t eat carbs

Carbs will seriously mess you up. When you sleep with carbs in you they’ll take tire irons to your major organs and also just reverse-liposuction fat onto your body.

When you eat carbs before bed, your body’s metabolism will naturally be slowing down, which will convert the carbs straight into fat.That’s bad.

Also, carbs will trigger an insulin release in your body, which will further depress your metabolism and force your body to store more fat. That’s also bad. That means you should avoid foods that trigger insulin as well. Those include red meats and some types of fish.

2. Eat fat

What. Eat fat to avoid gaining fat? That is crap. You are crap.

Nah, I’m not crap. And I’ll crush you if you say it again.

Anyway, healthy fats that you can find in oils, nuts, and nut butters are a great way to fill up before bed. You’ll feel fuller and since the food will digest slowly you won’t gain weight while you sleep.

3. Eat proteins that take a long time to digest

more: Take The Quiz – Do You Know The Unique Veggies That Burn Abdominal Fat?

What kinds of proteins does that include? I’m glad you asked.

Eating white meat, like chicken and turkey is a great choice for a meal at night. They won’t trigger a lot of insulin and they’ll also fill you up nicely.

Cottage cheese is another really good choice for protein, because you digest it slowly and it coats your stomach, leading to feelings of fullness and no night-time weight gain.

4. Avoid Super Salty Foods

Salty foods will make your body retain water. That’s a fact.

It’s because of the way that salt affects your cells and the way your body processes and stores water.

The bottom line? If you eat too much salt, your body is going to retain tons of water – leaving you looking and feeling bloated the next day.

So stay away from salt, get rid of the nighttime bloat, and look better the next day!

In summary…

What To Eat Before Bed To Lose Weight

  1. Don’t eat carbs
  2. Add a healthy fat source
  3. Eat proteins that take a long time to digest
  4. Avoid super salty foods

Is Eating Before Bed Actually Unhealthy?

The key is to nail the combo of protein and a little carbs: like snacking on nuts or Greek yogurt and pairing that with fruit or veggies. (Keep reading for more on the worst and best foods to eat before bed or late at night.)

Ultimately, researchers say, your late-night eating habits come down to self-control in making nutritious choices. “Food restriction in humans is much less controlled, and relies more on keeping a healthy environment and willpower—something many people struggle with,” says Mangieri. “The evening hours are when most people will admit to out-of-control eating since that’s the time when the work is done and it’s time to relax.”

Sometimes eating late at night is our only choice, though. With longer work hours and post-work obligations, some days you don’t even think about dinner until 8 p.m. The good news, according to Mangieri, is it’s less about what time you’re dining, and more about what foods are on your plate. (Take a look at celebrity chefs’ best midnight snack ideas before you get cooking).

Here’s what to remember if you’re eating at night and which foods are best to eat before bed.

The Best Foods to Eat Before Bed

  • Follow the 30–30 rule: Active young women who had 30 grams of protein about 30 minutes before sleep experienced no negative metabolic effects, the British Journal of Nutrition reports. In fact, before-bed protein built muscle in a study on strength-training men, and experts believe the same would be true for women. The protein should come from casein in dairy products like cottage cheese (a cup contains a little less than 30 grams). It’s slow digesting and will leave you satiated without spiking blood sugar. (It’s worth noting: If you typically don’t snack after dinner, there’s likely no benefit to adding a high-protein snack before bed.)
  • Include some carbs for sleep benefits: If you have trouble drifting off, include a small amount of healthy carbs with your protein snack when eating before bed, like half a slice of whole-grain toast or a few grapes, says Shape Brain Trust member Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D. author of The New Power Eating. These can help the body move the essential amino acid tryptophan into the brain to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.

The Worst Foods to Eat Before Bed

  • Skip high- fat and -sugar treats: The worst foods you can eat before bed are high in fat or sugar, says Kleiner: “High-fat foods take a long time to digest, and sugar increases your blood sugar, both of which can disturb sleep.”
  • Reconsider the whey: Whey protein causes insulin spikes that could keep you up as well, says Kleiner.
  • Cut the carbs: “If dinner is at 8 p.m. and bedtime is two hours later, the meal size should be smaller and include a smaller amount of carbohydrates,” says Mangieri. “Stick to a serving of lean protein and load up on veggies so you’ll still meet your nutrient needs without all the late-night calories.”
  • By Christina Orlovsky Page and Kylie Gilbert

Healthy eating begins with you! Giving your body the right nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight can help you stay active and independent. You’ll also spend less time and money at the doctor. This is especially true if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease.

The definition of healthy eating does change a little as you age. For example, as you grow older, your metabolism slows down, so you need fewer calories than before. Your body also needs more of certain nutrients. That means it’s more important than ever to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value.

Explore the materials below to get tips on how to find the best foods for your body and your budget.

Our Healthy Eating Videos

Watch our Next Steps to Better Nutrition videos to get practical shopping and cooking tips. Feel free to share them with older adults in your community!

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Easy Comfort Foods with a Twist

Tips for Picking Healthy Food as You Get Older

Here are 6 tips to help you find the best foods for your body and your budget.

1. Know what a healthy plate looks like

You might remember the food pyramid, but the USDA recently unveiled a simpler way to help people see what they should eat each day. It’s called MyPlate. The simple graphic shows exactly how the five food groups should stack up on your plate. These are the building blocks for a healthy diet.

2. Look for important nutrients

Make sure you eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Your plate should look like a rainbow—bright, colored foods are always the best choice! A healthy meal should include:

Remember to choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium or salt. Also, look for Vitamin D, an important mineral as we age.

3. Read the Nutrition Facts label

The healthiest foods are whole foods. These are often found on the perimeter of the grocery store in the produce, meat, and dairy sections. When you do eat packaged foods, be a smart shopper! Read the labels to find items that are lower in fat, added sugars, and sodium.

4. Use recommended servings

To maintain your weight, you must eat the right amount of food for your age and body. The American Heart Association provides recommended daily servings for adults aged 60+.

5. Stay hydrated

Water is an important nutrient too! Don’t let yourself get dehydrated—drink small amounts of fluids consistently throughout the day. Tea, coffee, and water are your best choices. Keep fluids with sugar and salt at a minimum, unless your doctor has suggested otherwise.

6. Stretch your food budget

Want to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck? The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can help you afford healthy food when you need it. Over 4 million older Americans use SNAP to buy food, and the average senior receives $113 each month. Visit BenefitsCheckUp.org/getSNAP to see if the program can help you.

Share our 6 tips infographic

Spread the word about how to make smarter choices at the grocery store.

Educational information provided with generous support from the Walmart Foundation.

Just How Bad Is It to Eat Before Bed?

It was always my understanding that eating too soon before bed was a prescription for weight gain. Then again, I probably absorbed this information from the same brain trust that told me that eating before swimming was dangerous, cracking my knuckles would give me arthritis, and that I’d almost certainly “catch my death” if I left the house with wet hair. In recent years however, researchers have taken a close and dispassionate look at what happens when we consume food late at night and found that the answer to the question at the top of this page isn’t that black and white.

When eating before bed goes right…

…it can stabilize morning blood sugar levels

When you wake, your liver gets to work producing extra glucose to give you the energy you’ll need to get up and out of bed. Ordinarily, that jolt of glucose is sufficient to get us going—even it’s only as far at the coffee pot. Some people—particularly those with diabetes—experience nocturnal hypoglycemia or low blood sugar during the night however. This can disrupt sleep, and leave people feeling groggy and/or ravenous upon waking. A few studies have suggested that a snack before bedtime may help prevent these changes in blood sugar by providing a little extra energy to help get you through the night and up and at ‘em in the morning.

“It’s really more about what you’re eating versus when,” says Niket Sonpal, a New York City-based gastroenterologist and professor of clinical medicine at Touro College. Sonpal tells me that eating a large dinner right before bed can negatively affect cardiovascular health and lead to weight gain, while smaller amounts of nutrient-dense food have been shown to be beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. “Having a small, clean meal before bed can help regulate blood sugar levels that, for some, drop through the night, which leads to feeling very hungry in the morning,” he says. “Lean protein, fresh fruit, vegetable, or a handful of nuts is a great evening option before bed.”

…and boost metabolism

A study from Florida State University showed that fit college-age men who consumed a 150-calorie carb- and protein-rich shake 30 to 60 minutes before bed increased their metabolic rate. When researchers did the same experiment with young obese women, they saw improvements in blood pressure and metabolic function.

“If you exercise regularly, eating some small portions before bed can ramp up morning metabolism,” Sonpal says. He suggests protein-rich foods because they may help aid muscle repair overnight.

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Sonpal also cites a small study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that found that participants who had daily doses of grapefruit or grapefruit extract exhibited a healthier insulin response—which is strongly tied to metabolic function—compared to participants who were given placebos. “If you like a pre-bed snack, try eating grapefruit for a refreshing and metabolism-boosting treat.”

When eating before bed goes wrong…

…it can be the stuff of nightmares

If you’ve ever had acid reflux—also known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn—you’ll know that it’s the opposite of a good time. Eating too close to bedtime can increase the likelihood of acid reflux particularly when heavier foods are consumed. “It takes a few hours for the stomach to empty a full meal,” Sonpal says, adding that eating too much, too close to bedtime allows for stomach acid to spill out of a full stomach and into the esophagus which is what causes the acid reflux.”

A 2005 study looked at the relationship between acid reflux and the time between when people eat and when they go to bed and found that shorter dinner-to-bedtime—less than three hours—was significantly associated with an increased acid reflux.

Symptoms of acid reflux—which affects up to 40 percent of Western populations—include difficulty swallowing, the feeling of having a lump in the throat, and exacerbated nighttime asthma. If you think that sounds like a nightmare, you should know that eating before bed may increase the likelihood of you experiencing actual nightmares too. In 2015, researchers in Canada found that 18 percent of study participants reported that eating before bed impacted their dreams describing them as disturbing.

…and mess with weight loss goals

A small 2013 study found that overweight and obese women on a 20-week weight loss program dropped pounds at a different rate depending on whether they ate their major meal before or after 3 pm—this was despite the amount they ate, slept and exercised being exactly the same.

“This is the first study to show that eating later in the day…makes people lose less weight, and lose it slower,” says the study’s lead author, Marta Garaulet, a professor of physiology at the University of Murcia in Spain.

Garaulet conducted a second study of healthy women the following year, and showed that when participants ate a big lunch after 4:30 pm, they burned fewer calories while resting and digesting their food than they did when they ate at 1 pm—even though the calories consumed and level of activity was the same.

In conclusion: Whether eating before bed is a good or bad idea is really about what you’re trying to address. If GERD, disturbing dreams, or an inability to lose weight are vexing you, putting three hours between your last mouthful of food and your head hitting the pillow is certainly worth a try. If, on the other hand, you tend to wake up feeling groggy, cranky and/or want to up the intensity of your morning workouts, a small, nutrient-dense nosh in the hour before you hit the sack could better set you up for the day.

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This article was written by Jenny Sugar and repurposed with permission from POPSUGAR Fitness.

Classic scenario: You finished dinner around 8 p.m. You’re hitting the hay soon, but your brain and belly say to hop into the kitchen first. You’re trying to slim down, though, so is it better to go to bed with a little something in your belly or absolutely nothing?

Nutritionists Stephanie Clarke, R.D., and Willow Jarosh, R.D., of C&J Nutrition, say there’s no black-and-white answer to this question because it depends on your personal habits and healthy goals. But you ask, “shouldn’t you feel hungry at night if you’re trying to lose weight?” Let’s just debunk a popular myth right now: Eating late at night won’t cause you to gain weight. As long as you’re not exceeding your calorie needs for the entire day, it won’t affect the scale. So there’s no need to avoid eating for the sheer sake of dropping pounds.

However, that’s not giving you the green light to devour an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies before slipping on your pajamas. You don’t want to eat so much that indigestion, discomfort, or pain makes sleep impossible or that you’re too full by morning that you need to skip breakfast, which can mess with your metabolism. But you also don’t want to starve yourself because hunger pangs could be so intense that it makes it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. Holding off and depriving yourself can also backfire, leading you to wolf down an entire pint of ice cream.

It’s up to you to find a happy medium. If you’re always hungry an hour or two after dinner, the solution may be just as simple as eating a little bit more for that last meal. Also, make sure you’re eating a balanced meal that includes protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, a little bit of healthy fat, and plenty of veggies because that will help you to feel satisfied for longer. Just be sure you map out your day’s eating schedule to allot enough calories (about 150 calories) for after dinner. Preplan some healthy, properly portioned snacks—these snacks will satisfy your dessert cravings—so you can feel good noshing.

More from POPSUGAR Fitness:
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Bend These Weight-Loss Rules and Still Drop Pounds

Eating at night has long been associated with weight gain. Years ago, nutrition pioneer Adele Davis gave her well-known advice to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”

Yet the conventional wisdom today is that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of when you eat it, and that what causes weight gain is simply eating more calories than you burn. Nutrition experts call this the calorie in/calorie out theory of weight control.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weight Control Information Network web site, “it does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.”

A study in the journal Obesity added to the confusion by suggesting that there may be more to nighttime eating than just overeating calories. Northwestern University researchers found that eating at night led to twice as much weight gain — even when total calories consumed were the same. But this research was done on mice, not humans, and the reason for the weight gain is unknown. And a single mouse study should not cause us to toss out the wealth of evidence supporting the calorie in/calorie out theory.

Still, there are good reasons to be cautious about eating at night. Diet books, dietitians, and even Oprah recommend not eating after dinner (other than a small, calorie controlled snack) because it’s just so easy to overdo it.

People eat at night for a variety of reasons that often have little to do with hunger, from satisfying cravings to coping with boredom or stress. And after-dinner snacks tend not to be controlled. They often consist of large portions of high-calorie foods (like chips, cookies, candy), eaten while sitting in front of the television or computer. In this situation, it’s all too easy to consume the entire bag, carton, or container before you realize it. Besides those unnecessary extra calories, eating too close to bedtime can cause indigestion and sleeping problems.

Night Eating Syndrome: A Warning Sign?

If you or someone you know is engaging in repetitive nighttime eating–even without being hungry–you may want to pay attention to some recent research about this concerning behavior.

Based on a new study, an uncommon eating disorder whose hallmark is excessive eating at nighttime, but not always outright binging, may be a warning sign of more serious mental health issues, and should be taken seriously.

The research was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health online, February 3.

Investigators reviewed mental health history and prevalence of eating disorders in nearly 1,600 university students and discovered that close to 4 percent of students met night eating syndrome criteria. They also found that close to a third of those who met criteria also engaged in binge eating.

While those with night eating syndrome may consume most of their calories at night, additional important features include no significant caloric consumption or appetite in the morning, and the feeling that it is essential to eat in order to get back to sleep. Based on the study, occasional late night snacks were not a concern unless they occurred more frequently or on a nightly basis.

According to the researchers, it is important to separate night eating from binge eating because available treatments and management for night eating are different than other eating disorders, which may also coexist.

Individuals with night eating syndrome (NES) often describe feelings such as lack of control over their eating behaviors, resulting in feelings of guilt and shame related to their condition.

It is also important to distinguish between sleep-related eating disorder, (SRED) a disorder which has received a significant amount of media attention, and night eating syndrome. People with SRED eat while sleepwalking, or while in a twilight state between sleep and being awake. People with SRED are not aware of what they’re doing, and often they may wake up to discover dishes or food in their bed, and have no memory of eating at all. A high percentage of these patients typically use prescription sleeping medications. By contrast, those with night eating syndrome are fully awake and aware of what they are consuming–with no memory deficits or lack of recall for their nightly eating rituals.

Results of the recent study published Feb 3 indicate that night eating was also common in the students taking medications for ADHD, as well as those with anorexia nervosa. As a result, it is possible that other disorders may increase the risk of developing a nighttime eating syndrome.

Based upon classification criteria in the newest psychiatric DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5) night eating disorder is a distinct diagnosis. While the hallmark of the syndrome is often defined by increased appetite at night, it commonly is characterized by so called “grazing” on food during the evening, as opposed to outright binging–and also may include waking up during the night to eat. Often the urge to eat is linked to the feeling it that it will improve sleep or allow the person to get back to sleep.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, night eating syndrome affects an estimated 1-2 percent of the population, equally prevalent in both men and women.

Another study from JAMA noted that by 6 p.m., people with night eating syndrome consumed just about a third of their daily caloric intake, while those without the condition had consumed close to seventy five percent. Those who ate predominantly at night consumed 56% of daily calories, while those without the condition consumed only 15%, from the hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Night eaters in this study were also much more likely than other individuals to have an addiction problem. Other research indicates that people with night eating syndrome tend to suffer from a distinct form of depression. In contrast to the usual pattern where depression is more pronounced in the early part of the day, night eaters tend to become more depressed during the evening.

Results of the recently published study, Feb 3 indicated that participants generally consumed more calories at night. The take-away was that college students under stress with erratic and inadequate amounts of sleep place them at risk for night eating.

The bulk of earlier research into night eating was based on data from smaller studies and did not take into account the possibility of binge eating disorder which can also be found in night time eaters.

So a question the researchers set out to answer, was how common night eating syndrome is, and what are the predisposing risks and factors.

In a separate sub-analysis designed to answer this question, data was examined from a 2008 survey of students from 10 U.S. universities, involving 1,636 students, of which 60 percent were young females and 74 percent were white. Additionally, close to 60 percent of the students were also involved in competitive sports.

The survey, which was online, evaluated height and weight, plus had questions evaluating night eating, eating disorders and health-related quality of life. Night Eating Questionnaire (NEQ) scores were then tabulated to and used as a tool to diagnose night eating syndrome.

Binge eating was also measured by students’ reports of details such as a feeling of loss of control over eating. Recurrent binge eating was defined as binge eating large amounts of food at least four times during the previous month.

A total of 67 respondents (4.2 percent) met the criteria for night eating syndrome. They were also more likely than other students to have other eating-disorder behaviors such as excessive laxative use, compulsive exercise and purging, as well as lower quality of life. Another 222 students (14 percent) appeared to be binge eaters.

Of the 67 students with night eating syndrome, 22 were also binge eaters. Excluding the binge eaters from the group of students with night eating syndrome reduced the prevalence of night eating to 2.9 percent.

A history of depression and self-injuring was more common among those with night eating disorder.

Medical Effects of Night Eating Syndrome

Those with night eating syndrome may also display concerning behaviors found in those with other eating disorders, which may predispose them not only to emotional or psychological effects, but to serious medical problems including weight gain, the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and elevated blood pressure.

Individuals with night eating syndrome often have a history of substance abuse, and may also suffer from depression. They typically report being more depressed at night. They also frequently have sleep disorders.

Recognition and awareness of night eating syndrome is vital so individuals can be referred for treatment. It is especially important to be aware of persons waking up and eating multiple times throughout the night, concurrent with missing food and progressive weight gain.

Signs and Clues Suggesting Night Eating Syndrome

Those with night eating syndrome may be overweight or obese, but can also be close to normal weight as well. They may also feel as though they have no control over their eating behavior, eat in secret and even when they are not hungry. They may also feel shame and remorse over their behavior.

Some may hide food out of shame or embarrassment. Those with night eating syndrome typically eat rapidly, eating more than most people would in a similar time period and may also feel a loss of control over their eating. Some may eat even when they are not hungry and continue eating even when they are uncomfortably full. Feeling embarrassed by the amount they eat, they typically eat alone to minimize their embarrassment. They often feel guilt, depression, disgust, distress or a combination of these symptoms.

Those with night-eating syndrome eat a majority of their food during the evening. They generally eat little or nothing in the morning, and wake up during the night and typically fill up on high-calorie snacks.

Traits of patients with night-eating syndrome may include being overweight, frequent failed attempts at dieting, depression or anxiety, substance abuse, concern about weight and shape, perfectionism and a negative self-image.

Etiology of Night Eating Syndrome

The exact cause of night eating syndrome is not clear, as well as its link to addiction and depression. One theory is that night eating syndrome involves a disruption in the hormones that regulate sleep, appetite, and mood–specifically, an alteration or disruption in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. It is possible that night eating syndrome may be a form of “self-medication”, since a large proportion of snacking late at night generally involves carbohydrate-rich or “comfort” type foods.

There may also be a number of contributing factors to night eating syndrome. Some college students may develop the habit of nighttime eating, and this may continue into adulthood. Those with night eating syndrome may also be high achievers who work through lunch, and may then make up the caloric debt by eating more at night.

Night eating syndrome can also be viewed as a response to dieting. With restriction of calories during the day, persons typically overcompensate at night by eating greater amounts. Night eating may also be a response to stress bottled up during the day, with eating serving as a way to self- medicate, according to some persons with the syndrome.

Treatments For Night Eating Syndrome

Consistent with other eating disorders, successful treatment of night eating syndrome generally requires a combination of therapies.

Educating patients about their condition is an important first step in therapy for night eating syndrome, primarily so they develop a greater awareness of their eating behaviors and can begin to identify triggers that influence how they eat.

Potential treatments of night eating syndrome may include nutrition assessment and therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exercise physiology, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy (IT) along with management of stress. Online support groups as well as individual counseling may also help patients reduce symptoms and gain independence and control over the syndrome.

Identification of individuals with night eating syndrome and referral for further evaluation is essential in order to help identify other important issues such as underlying depression and substance abuse that require further attention.

Best thing to eat before bed to lose weight

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