You hear plenty of rumours about how eating before bed makes digestion more difficult and your body doesn’t enter fat-burning mode efficiently. But for many of us, eating at 5PM just isn’t feasible. So how bad actually is it to eat late at night?
“It’s a personal choice but there are reasons why you might be cautious about eating late. One thing to look at is the reason why you are eating late – is it to satisfy boredom or hunger, and if so, could you try and do something else to satisfy this urge?” says nutritionist Gabriela Peacock. She goes on, “eating a lot, too close to bedtime can cause indigestion, which can affect sleep, which has an effect on health.
Holly Dempsey is a clinical specialist dietitian at The Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP). “There is no convincing evidence that eating before bed is bad for us. People argue that eating before bed means the calories in food are not used and so are stored as fat. However our body still requires lots of energy whilst we sleep so the number of calories we burn overnight is not much different to the calories we burn during the day.”
She goes on, “the reason people link weight gain to eating before bed is because these snacks often push our calories above out daily energy requirements. On top of this, people who eat in the evening tend to do so in front of the TV or whilst doing other activities which can lead to over-consumption. Some people who suffer from acid reflux find that eating before bed can make their reflux worse so these people may benefit from stopping eating two to three hours before bed.”
There is some logic in the notion that if the body has done the hard work of initial digestion hours before bedtime, you’ll get a better night’s sleep and other important processes can take place. But it depends if you’re looking for quality sleep or weight loss from the time at which you eat. While quality sleep may be enhanced by eating earlier, it is what you eat, not when you eat it, that is most important for weight loss.
I’ll be honest – I find it far more uncomfortable to get into bed straight after a huge meal, and I sleep better without feeling horribly full, so I do the best I can to finish early and know my food is already digesting. But if the occasion calls for eating late, do so without beating yourself up over it.
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Charlotte is a London girl through and through. She sweats through spin and puffs through Pilates to justify trying the latest restaurants and devouring copious amounts of sweet potato fries, burrata and bread – preferably on holiday. Her favourite destinations include Italy, the Maldives and anywhere where the sun’s shining and there’s a strong breakfast buffet. She’s obsessed with walking, visiting farmers’ markets and reading. She’s also learning to cook. Wish her (and her husband) luck.