Do you start your day with a positive vibe, a healthy breakfast, and an energy-booster workout, but find it challenging to control eating late at night? Most people can perform well during the day when it comes to eating and exercise, but struggle to address some lifestyle issues late at night. Eating behaviors later in the day should be given more attention to, especially at this time (while we are experiencing the negative health effects brought about by the pandemic) for long-lasting weight control and health management.
I discussed in my previous article the best time to exercise that can match your goals, lifestyle and body type. In the latter part, I mentioned eating most of your calories during the earlier part of your day and avoiding food intake close to bedtime. This week, I will focus on strategies to avoid late-night eating so you can avoid health issues and continue to achieve your fitness and weight goals.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that eating late at night may contribute to weight gain due to a higher increase in blood sugar (higher by 18 percent) and lower fat burn while you sleep (lower by 10 percent). To manage your weight, you need to maximize your calorie burn not only during your waking hours but even while you are asleep. You can only achieve this by getting the right amount of movement, eating the right amount of food, and giving importance to recovery -everything should be combined with the proper timing of exercise and food intake.
Eat during your most active hours during the day when your energy is high and your brain is fully functioning
Consume most of your calories during the early part of your day (breakfast or lunch) so you can maximize your energy in performing the most important tasks for the day needed by your body and brain. Strategically match the timing of your meals with your activities. You need to have a well-conditioned body so you can perform well in your fitness and/or sports activities, daily household chores, daily errands, and your job requiring your physical energy. You should be mentally sharp during the day so you can perform the most- needed mental tasks for problem-solving, concentration, planning, organizing, learning new skills, and control over emotions and behaviors.
Stay away from lifestyle habits that can contribute to disturbed sleep such as late-night eating, intense physical activities, and drinking caffeine and too much alcohol. You don’t need extra calories late at night because you should be preparing your body already for rest and sleep. Late-night eating can disrupt your body clock, which can lead to more serious health problems such as insomnia, impaired fat metabolism, mental issues, gastrointestinal problems, and cardiovascular diseases.
Practice the most effective lifestyle management strategies that can help prevent late-night eating
Stick to a schedule that works well with your body’s natural rhythm. Plan eating your meals during your most active hours, which is usually within 8 to 12 hours of your waking hours. For example, doing a 12-hour fast (https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/398271/to-fast-or-not-to-fast-finding-the-perfect-meal-timing-based-on-your-goals-body-and-lifestyle/) (eating only during the 12-hour window) can work well with your lifestyle if you are physically and mentally active during the whole 12 hours. This has been working for me (eating between 6:30/7 am to 7 pm) because I usually start my physical work at 6:30 or 7 am, I sleep between 9:30 pm to 10 pm and I wake up now between 4 am to 5:30 am and my slight hunger usually starts before 7 am.
A light dinner (three to four hours before sleep) can be achieved by eating most of your calories earlier in the day and having a light snack before dinner when needed, which is also dependent on your activities later in the day. You can still have whole grain carbs like brown rice or whole wheat pasta, but control the quantity to half (can have half a cup if you usually have a cup of rice for lunch) and never miss your protein and vegetables. You can always have fruit for dessert. The combination of healthy fats, fiber (from grains, fruits, and veggies), and protein can help avoid hunger pangs at night since your hunger hormones and blood sugar are effectively regulated.
Avoid high-carb and high-fat meals such as pizza and heavy pasta and high-sugar desserts such as cakes, cookies, donuts, and sugary drinks. These foods can cause a sudden spike in blood sugar, followed by a sudden drop, causing one to crave more food at night. This is the reason why your body looks for more food even after eating carb-loaded or sugary food.
In case you get hungry at night after dinner, you can aim for a light snack consisting of some protein, healthy fat and fiber such as half a cup of Greek yogurt, half a banana, and a tablespoon of nuts or seeds. You can also drink your milk or get a handful of pistachios or almonds.
Excessive drinking can affect your sleep quality and trigger eating high-carb and high-fat foods at night such as chips. Limit your alcohol intake at night to 1-2 servings only. Try to schedule your socials earlier.
Communicate your health and lifestyle concerns with your loved ones so they can support your journey. If your husband is used to eating sweets and junk foods late at night while watching a movie, in a nice way, mention how avoiding late-night eating can contribute to the health and well-being of your whole family.
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