Is It Okay to Eat Right Before Going to Bed? “Yes” and “No”

“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.

eat right before 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.

54 thoughts on “Is It Okay to Eat Right Before Going to Bed? “Yes” and “No””

  1. Rusty,

    I’ve been on this diet since January 19th. I started out at 256+ and am now 221.2. The severe hunger issues at night has been more of an issue this last month of dieting as I am making the final push to 215.6 (4% estimated body fat goal).

    I am 6’3″ and big boned, I try not to eat more than 1750-2000 calories a day at this stage in the dieting. Thursdays are my weigh in days, and I also treat myself to a Woodgrill buffet for sanity reasons and a mental recharge. I do high intensity cardio every day of the week in the mornings on an empty stomach with caffeine in the system in addition to low rep low volume lifting. This is the gist of what I have been doing to get to this point, giving me an average of 2.06 pounds lost per week for the last 3 weeks.

    Is this severe night hunger because of my calorie intake? I don’t want to change the calorie intake because I feel like my body metabolism has already adjusted so much since I began the diet over 4 months ago (hitting the law of diminishing marginal returns).

  2. I generally give the advice of not eating anything at least 1 hour prior to bed. I have had the most success personally and professionally with this advice.

  3. Keith,

    As far as pounds per body fat percentage. That changes depending upon how much you weigh. To be honest, I don’t get too hung up on the number. You will begin to see you abs around the 10-12% range…and will be extremely sharp at 6%…anything in between that is ideal.

    leftfield,

    Great point and is probably a huge contributor to why this works. I’ve never thought of it like that. A brilliant way of looking at it!

    Done,

    Eating the lighter meal at night will be the way to go in your case. It sounds like the ideal strategy for you.

    John,

    If you are starving, then eating a little like you are doing is probably ideal. I’m betting that your body soaks up the nutrients and by bed time you are good.

    Jason G,

    Thanks for explaining the calculation…my brain is tired. Also, probably good advice for Keith on adding a bit of muscle. My guess is that any type of training is going to put a natural amount of muscle on his frame. He will also probably fill out a bit as he gets older (my guess is that he is a young guy). And yep…calories are a big deal for sure.

    Greg,

    I would definitely not do a cardio session if you are in this state. If you are this hungry you may need to eat a little something. Quick question…how long have you been on this diet? The only reason I ask is that there seems to be a period of 2-3 weeks where this can happen. As your body becomes more efficient at using stored body fat for energy this won’t be as much of an issue.

    katie,

    Your strategy seems to work for you well. For me, pretzels and cereal make it hard for me to drop the last little bit of fat. I could just be extra sensitive to these type of carbs…everyone is different. As fa as the phrase “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper”…I don’t think it is necessary to portion the meals like this. I do the exact opposite for the most part. For 5 days a week, I only eat fruit and yogurt or a small omlette for breakfast. For lunch, I’ll have leftovers from dinner the night before. My dinner is about the same size as my lunch. On my fasting days, I don’t eat anything until dinner and it is a medium sized dinner (most of the time…ocassionally I go out to eat at night).

    MOL,

    I think ellipticals can work, but you have to push yourself hard.

    Rusty

  4. Hey Rusty-

    Great article–being healthy and in shape has always been very important to me, but it gets tough some times as I do love to eat. It may sound childish, but I’ve found that I’m happier in the morning when I go to bed on an empty stomach, as eating too much before bed makes me feel sick.

    I do snack though, and normally limit myself to about 200 calories up to 1.5 hours before bed (if my day of eating has allowed me to eat 200 extra calories) even on days where I have a larger bank of unused calories. My favorite snacks are uncooked carrots, mini pretzles, and cereal.

    If anyone’s having trouble dieting/get snack happy at night, I’d recommend the cereal snack. It requires slight preparation and utensils, so it’s meal-like. Make sure that when you go to the grocery store, you spend a little extra time in the cereal isle–you don’t want to end up with a high calorie cereal. Go with low sugar and high nutrition.

    Also–I’ve always heard the phrase “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper.” What’s your take?

    Thanks!

  5. Rusty,

    I am currently in the process of losing those last 7.5 pounds of fat. I have had to become even more strict in my calorie intake in the last few weeks to get here. I was wondering, what the heck makes me so ridiculously hungry at night (to the point of tears in my eyes as I watch the food channel)? Is my metabolism going insane and should I take advantage of this, maybe even do a late night cardio session?

    -Greg

  6. Rusty,

    Thanks for your comment and I agree with you. I do think eating cleanly helps, but ultimately people trying to lose weight should be calorie conscious. Sure if people only eat leafy vegetables than they will probably only consume five hundred calories in their day and can probably stop watching calories. However even us Paleo eaters still need to limit avocados, nuts, healthy cooking oils, and even lean meats if we want to lose weight because of their high calorie content. Eating cleanly can be dangerous to the weight loss process if the dieter consumes more calories as a result of it.

    So my point was that “how much calories?” should be the main question on a dieters mind not ” what type of calories?” and “when should I consume these calories?”. That being said like you said above the latter questions can help fine tune the process.

  7. Keith,

    Divide your body weight by 100. You will go down one percentage point of fat if you loose 1.69 pounds of fat. If you were a 250 pound person it would be about 2.5 pounds of fat.

    I am 6’2 and have calculated that I will be at 8 percent body fat around 175 lbs. I am decently muscular. I think you want to be at least 165 lbs at 6 feet. You should probably consider doing a muscle building routine, because one subject Rusty hasn’t touched on is how unflattering a really skinny ripped(but with no muscular shape) guy can be. I’m not saying this is you, but if your 169 and you can’t see your six pack than you probably have a high body fat percentage which makes your lean body mass(body weight less body fat) sound small.

  8. I work in a restaurant so I have late hours and when I get home I’m often starved. But I found I could get and stay lean by having a little discipline and eating about half of what I normally would have before going to bed (about an hour later). So for instance if I cooked up a burger, I’d just cut it in half and eat the other half sometime later. Plus, I slept better because my body wasn’t churning away on trying to digest this huge meal.

  9. Hey Rusty

    Thanks again for the post – its brilliant. I was wondering about this.

    For me its a bit difficult to eat 4-5 hours before bed… cos i gym in the morning.. and at night – and like gyming on fasted state. So when i get home around 8pm – that’s when i start cooking and eating… and ill be in bed by 10-11pm.

    Do you think eating big at lunch time – and then a salad at night will help for this? Instead of doing it the other way round. Also – i’m doing low carb and low cal. (my normal suppers are meat with salad/veg)

    Thanks Dude!

    🙂

  10. i think the benefits of not eating a few hours before bed may well be due to simple calorie restriction, if you leave a 5 hour gap, then sleep for 8 & eat an hour after getting up thats 14 hours without food! you’re going to benefit for GH release & fat oxidation due to low insulin but ultimately you’ve cut eating time down for the day to just 10 hours, 14 hours on empty is mild IF’ing, i think this is a good trick for getting ripped.

  11. hey rusty how many pounds of body fat is eqaul to 1% of it. Also i am 6ft and 169 pounds, and still cant really see my abs. If i lose 15 pounds and go down to 154 will that too skinny for my height. thanks

  12. Bryan,

    Good points…I have backed off a bit on the pictures of ladies, but I will still do occasionally. I guess my sites has grown up a bit, but I don’t want to lose my edge all the way. I will do a post on clothes at some point. Until then…a good place for fitted shirts for guys… Buckle, Express, Urban Outfitters, Metro Park, and quite a few others. Most downtown areas of the big cities also have tons of little boutiques with private designers.

    MOL,

    I’m glad you found my site. I have no problem throwing out controversial stuff. I could care less if I rub a few so called fitness gurus the wrong way. I know what works and I do base much about what we talk about on very recent scientific studies. As far as getting slim thighs, avoid things that “pump” the legs. A big tip is to use the treadmill instead of exercise bike. Make sure you create a decent calorie deficit with your diet while doing at least some resistance training a few times per week. That body weight circuit is awesome!

    Adam,

    Part of the cool thing about Intermittent Fasting is the GH release during the fast during the day. Great reminder about avoiding eating before bed to maximize this at night as well. The last few pounds is where this matters most, just like you said. Great points.

    Scott,

    Yeah…this doesn’t matter as much if you are just trying to maintain weight…but a great strategy for the last little bit of fat. I always forget my dreams…I wish I could remember more!

    rob,

    The Warrior Diet works well for some people. I just simply ate too much. The diet made me crave food in a big way…others have better self control.

    Mike,

    Thanks for including this link. I’ll give it a read.

    Jason G,

    I think what you said makes sense. People are leanest right before their biggest meal. Calories in and Calories out works, but you can speed that up even more by keeping insulin levels low and stable.

    Carb-Junkie,

    That is an interesting point. I have never thought of the idea of a night meal making me sleepier the next day. I’ll have to pay attention to that!

    Greg,

    I also think calories in and calorie out is 80% of the battle. These tweaks are more geared towards those who need every advantage they can get…which are typically people trying to lose that last little bit of fat.

    Scott,

    True…maybe it would be a good idea to aim for max GH release during the day and night.

    Tim,

    You should eat a low carb healthy meal, like a chicken salad or chicken stir-fry. Something along those lines. If you can eat dinner at work on your last 15 minute break (6:30’ish)….then do the apple and water thing.

    Cseng,

    I always look way better when my calories are a bit on the low side. The key is to maintain strength. People almost always eat too much in their quest for protein when getting lean. Also…you don’t need as much protein as what most experts claim.

    Sid,

    Awesome results over the past 4 months. Good job! Here is my opinion on what you might want to change. Drink your coffee 100% black. This makes a difference. Drop the 11:30 pm protein. Keep everything else you are doing. Your diet and workout looks pretty extreme, so at some point you will want to drop it down to 4 days per week. Also, introduce real food into your diet once you reach your goal.

    fitness-siren,

    The Eat Stop Eat way of eating pumps up your HGH during the fast, so this will probably make up for your night time meal. Keeping it a little low carb and low cal will help.

    Helder,

    The people who will benefit most are those who have been eating at night and are at a fat loss plateau. I have to avoid food before bed when I want to get extra lean, but don’t have to be careful the rest of the time.

    myra,

    Sounds like you figured out a good strategy that works for you. Very cool!

    The Spaniard,

    Good points..it has been my experience that active guys and girls in their 20’s can get away with more than a 40 year old. A lot of people can get away with eating at night and make decent progress, but I’m betting that most would get quicker results if they didn’t eat so close to bed-time. Either way, people can find out what works best for them.

    Justin,

    The whole GH equation really makes a difference when someone wants to get really lean. It is one of the things that allows people to burn that last little bit of stubborn fat. A few pounds out, people need every little advantage they can get.

    jerdog,

    ESE is a great way to imporve HGH release as well as reduce weekly calorie intake. It is a solid strategy for sure!

    hugo,

    Instead of oatmeal, go for a protein source like yogurt, cottage cheese, glass of milk, etc. You don’t want those carbs right before bed. Other than that it sounds like you are taking the right approach.

    Rahul,

    Any brand of whey protein is good. Also, believe it or not one of the best protein shakes for muscle gain is chocolate milk. You can drink this about an hour after your workout. I recommend waiting an hour to insure max HGH release…you don’t want a surge in insulin right after lifting in my opinion (people have different opinion on this, but I focus on helping people stay lean).

    Michiel,

    I’m finding that Mark Sisson’s paleo style of eating, combined with ESE is a simple way to stay around 6-8% body fat. I stay right around 8% year round and don’t worry about hitting 6% until summer. Really as long as my abs look sharp, I don’t sweat the exact percentage. You sound like you are in a great range. Thanks for the compliment…I appreciate all the comments.

    Methuselah,

    Great strategy with the fast…I will try that as well. Also…I am seeing your Paleo Videos everywhere! Congrats on getting those videos to go viral. You deserve it!

    Cheers,

    Rusty

  13. Good summary Rusty. Because of work I find it hard to eat more than 3 hours before bed, but I make up for it with twice weekly 23-hour fasts. I make an effort to eat small the night before a fast and find this is a good way to make the fast count…

  14. Great topic, really got me thinking about what to eat for a good GH release. I’m now at 188 pounds 6ft 2 with 8% bodyfat. I think if i lose another 1 or 2% BF i wil be very sharp. Is it really possible to maintain 6-8% year round? Staying between 8-10% is maintainable for me but when i try to get lower than 8% my body seems to bounce back pretty quickly and i seem to lose a bit of muscle.
    Thanks again so much for your work at this site, it keeps amazing me with what i still can learn.
    Greetz

  15. Hi Rusty,

    A lot of these topics are kind of confusing with no clear answer….for myself, I know that I want to lose some last bits of fat (lower abs, neck and face) and am not able to do so and kind of thought it might be due to this exact same thing….I come back fairly late from work so don’t have much choice, usually hit the bed very soon after eating……

    Anyways, wanted to sk your opinion on protien supplements etc…In the last 3-4 months, I have lost quite a bit of fat (I think HIIT really worked out for me) but don’t think I have gained much by way of muscle….so was thinking of taking protien shakes etc.(in any case, my diet dosen’t contain much protien and that might be one reason)….I am not sure what goes into this stuff so wanted ur reccomendation…..

    I know you keep talking about Myoplex, but it’s not available here in India. Are there any other brand names u can suggest for me to check out?? I am a total beginer and just want clean protein, that’s it…..

    Thanks again,
    Rahul

  16. This is all fine but what about those cases where you dont wish to lose weight but you still wanna get leaner? I mean, I’m in my 68Kg’s, thats my average weight thru out the year, still I’m trying to get leaner so my body gets that extra toned look.
    I know I should exercise more, specially cardio which I’m doing none mostly due to the weather which is not stable yet but right now I’ve only been trying to gain some mass doing bodyweight exercies and using a set of dumbells.
    Usually when it’s time to go to bed I’m starving to death couse I don’t eat since dinner and that’s like 4 sometimes 6 hours after, so I usually eat a bowl of oatmeal.
    Hope I’m not making a mistake.

  17. I believe there are other factors involved, but in general one should be able to become leaner if you eat several hours before bed versus eating right before bed. The reason I say this is generally people sleep 6-8 hours, so if you eat your last meal farther from your sleep time, your body will digest that meal and then have more time to “come down” from any insulin release that occurred. Once insulin levels are low enough you will begin to release GH. The longer you release GH the more weight you should lose. ESE is one of the best ways to promote GH release.

  18. NIce post Rusty, this is something I really dont know much about.

    @ Adam, good comment! You touched on a few points that I had not thought of before with GH…

Comments are closed.