“Is it okay to eat right before going to bed?” This is a question I have been asked quite a bit recently. The problem is that it really depends upon how much you eat before going to bed and what your goals are. The crazy thing about this question is that everyone will give you a slightly different answer. The problem is that there hasn’t been any study (that I know of) that talks about eating right before bed when it comes to getting really lean. I am going to speak purely from my experiences and observations of what I do in regards to eating right before going to bed.
[I enjoy sleeping in a room with either huge windows or a door out to a deck. It is much easier to sleep with a lot of fresh air circulating around the room. The ultimate situation is being by the ocean in a room like this and going to sleep with the fresh ocean air coming in and hearing the sound of the crashing waves.]
How Much Can You Eat Immediately Before Going to Bed?
The answer to the main question of eating before bed depends upon how much you plan to eat, what you have eaten earlier in the day, what your fitness goals are, and a few other factors. In my experience, I feel you will get better results if you don’t eat a big meal within 1-2 hours of going to bed. If you are doing something like the Warrior Diet where you don’t eat anything during the day, then you can get away with eating right before bed.
Does “Getting Away” With Eating Before Bed Make it Optimal?
I used to follow the Warrior Diet and now I do Intermittent Fasting just twice per week. When I was following the Warrior Diet at first I ended up eating a big meal right before bed. I found that it was fine when I was maintaining my weight, but didn’t work well when I wanted to get really lean. Now I do an ESE-style fast twice per week, which is just eating a normal sized meal at night about 4 hours before bed. The rest of the week I eat 3 meals per day and my last meal is about 4-5 hours before bed.
For Maximum Fat Loss This Has Been My Experience…
In order to get really lean, I think you should eat your last meal no later than 4-5 hours before going to bed. Now…if you get really hungry then it is fine to have a cup of yogurt, an apple, or a cup of cottage cheese. It is okay to eat a little before bed, but not have a full meal right before bed. If you have a lot of weight to lose, you don’t have to worry about this as much. This is more geared towards people who are trying to lose the last 5-10 “stubborn” pounds.
Once You Are in “Maintenance Mode” Then No Need to Worry
The ideal situation is to be in maintenance mode. This is when you are as lean as you would like to be. At this point you don’t have to be as strict. If you are extra lean, you still will want to time your night meals 4-5 hours before bed some of the time. The rest of the time you don’t have to worry as much.
Calories In and Calories Out is What Matters for Most
You can get really close to your ideal weight, by just paying attention to calories in and calories out. That being said, I believe you can make your fat loss much easier by eating a Paleo-style diet combined with intermittent fasting. The Paleo low carb diet will keep your insulin levels steady. Your body can’t burn body fat when insulin levels are high. Steady insulin levels are a key to rapid fat loss. Intermittent fasting, they way I do it, is an easy way to reduce your weekly calorie intake. This is the best 1-2 combo I know for getting as lean as you want and still being able to indulge now and then.
Eating Right Before Going to Bed and Digestion
If you eat a big meal and then lay down your body is in a horizontal position. Some believe that food doesn’t get digested as well when someone is in the horizontal position. I spent an hour researching this and found that really only a small percentage of individuals have an issue with this. The people who need to avoid this are those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you have a healthy digestive system this tends to be less of an issue.
Eating Right Before Going to Bed to Gain Muscle
Actually it probably isn’t a bad idea to have a little protein right before bed if you are trying to gain muscle. No need to make it overly complicated, but a cup of yogurt, cottage cheese, whey protein shake, etc. To be honest, this hasn’t really been proven with a study either way…it is just one of those things that “seem” to make sense. If you add a little protein before bed you muscles will have a steady supply of aminos for at least part of the night. Please don’t wake up in the middle of the night and go protein crazy on me. That is madness!
Summary: So most people will be fine if they simply pay attention to calories in vs calories burned each day (they will still lose weight). Even those people would probably do best if they didn’t eat a large meal within 1 hour of going to bed. For people who want to lose those last 5-10 pounds…try not to eat a big meal within 4 hours of sleep, but eat a small snack if you are starving. For people who want to gain muscle it makes sense to eat a quality protein source before bed, but this is still more of a guess that hasn’t really been scientifically proven.
Note: I found a ton of articles on this subject, but listing them will confuse more than they help. The biggest problem is that weight loss is really basic until you get 5-10 pounds out from your target…then the rules change. I’m convinced that it is pretty hard to get extra-lean for most people if they eat a big meal within 4 hours of going to bed, but a small bit of food is fine every now and then. Would love to hear other people’s take on the subject. Bring on the comments!