Contrary to popular belief, eating after a certain time at night does NOT magically make you gain weight.
Sure, this “rule” can be useful when you consider the types of munchies and junk food that many folks snack on late at night. As a result, it may “work” simply by displacing some less than stellar food choices. However, when you eat is not nearly as important as what and how much eat.
All of this is refreshing to hear because, like most folks, you’ve likely experienced late-night cravings, which may partially be explained as Father Time working against you. Yep, studies show that satiety—feelings of fullness and satisfaction—actually decreases as the day wears on.
By not eating or by limiting your food choices at night, you may be self-sabotaging yourself. In fact, you may even be holding yourself back from getting the results you want and deserve. You see, choosing the right foods in the appropriate amounts can crush cravings, leave you feeling full and satisfied, boost your metabolism, accelerate your fat loss, and build calorie-burning lean muscle mass.
The centerpiece of the evening meal or snack should be protein. High-protein meals boost metabolism and help keep you feeling full and satisfied. What’s more, studies also show that consuming a specific type of slow-digesting milk protein (called casein) before sleep can help build calorie-burning lean muscle mass and promote recovery—while you sleep! Some of my favorite choices include cottage cheese and Greek yogurt (both great sources of casein), eggs, and animal proteins (including beef, poultry, wild game, and fish).
You may have heard that it’s best to avoid carbs at night, right? Not so fast. Having some slow-digesting, high-fiber carbs at night can also help keep you full, feeling satisfied, and even help you stick to your nutrition plan better. In a recent study published in the journal Obesity, researchers found that overweight folks who ate a larger percentage of their daily carbohydrates at dinner lost more weight, body fat, and inches from their waistlines compared to a group that ate the same number of daily calories in a more traditional way (e.g., more carbs at breakfast and lunch).
Not only that, this strategy of eating more carbs later in the day helped shift hunger hormones, resulting in less hunger throughout the day. What’s more, eating some carbs later may help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can disrupt sleep. Carbs also promote the release of a “feel-good” molecule called serotonin, which promotes satiety, feelings of wellbeing, and restful night’s sleep. So, don’t be afraid to include a portion of beans, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, or quinoa in your meal.
Also, load your plate up with colorful veggies, which pack a huge nutrition buck with very little calorie bang, help fill you up, and allow you to eat a greater volume of food while reducing calorie intake. My favorite’s come from the cruciferous family, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts; however, I encourage you to choose an array of colors—more variety means a greater array of beneficial phytonutrients.
Let’s not fear the fat either. Healthy fats, including avocados, olives, coconut, and nuts, have a powerful satiating effect, helping regulate appetite through the release of key hormones. These fats are also essential to make sure that your body absorbs and utilizes all those beneficial phytonutrients from your veggies.