Close your kitchen at 7 pm!
Brush your teeth after dinner, so you don’t eat anything the rest of the night!
I hear these ‘weight loss tricks’ time and time again. And, not even just from clients or readers. I read them in magazines and I’ve seen them in weight loss books. And I have a couple of questions about them.
- So, nothing goes into your mouth after this magical, made up time? And what does that even mean – do you put caution tape around your kitchen? Put sticky notes all over the fridge calling yourself a fat cow if you open it?
- Does the minty flavor REALLY curb your appetite? What kind of toothpaste are you using to stay that minty all night? Really, I want to know what kind of toothpaste you use.
All of this, of course, is to avoid eating before bed. And I get it – binging on nachos before hitting the hay probably isn’t a super great idea if you’re trying to lose weight (or ever), but seriously, can we just stop with the bedtime snack police?
What I hate about this famous weight loss tip:
- If you’re hungry – if you have actual hunger pangs – you need to eat. Always. I don’t care who you are, what your goals are – starving yourself is a metabolic disaster and will only cause more harm than good.
- Steady blood sugar is so important for weight loss, fat burning, energy, a high functioning metabolism, curbing cravings and just overall health. As you can imagine, your blood sugar drops steadily throughout the night because you are fasting. So, not eating from dinner to breakfast – which could be at least 12 hours – is going to cause your blood sugar to bottom out overnight.
- Starving yourself after dinner is honestly such old news. The newest research shows that including a small bedtime snack won’t sabotage your weight loss efforts, and as a matter of fact, it may even help them.
But, a bedtime snack won’t be used as energy, so it’ll be stored as fat, right?
Wrong. As long as you’re eating the right food. I definitely touch on this in my post The Blood Sugar Diet, and I talk about it a lot, but we.love.glucagon. Glucagon is our ultimate fat burning hormone that is released and goes to work only when blood sugar levels are stable and chill. If you’re not eating anything before bed, your blood sugar just dips and dips and dips, all evening and all night long, until you finally eat breakfast. It’s just not a great situation. Having a small, healthy, balanced snack before bed will give your blood sugar the little boost it needs so that it doesn’t drop so sharply throughout the night. See what I’m getting at here? Glucagon can go to work and you can burn fat in your sleep. CHURCH.
Eat carbs and fat at night.
Now you really think I’m full of it, right? This is so counterintuitive from everything we think we know about eating before bed. But listen, carbs are what actually give you that little blood sugar boost (sugar is just broken down carbohydrates) and fat acts as a buffer to keep that blood sugar release really nice and slow. Include some fiber with your snack (another great buffer), eat the right type of carbs and fat in small amounts, and you are SET for the night.
But what about protein?
While I always, always recommend including protein with every meal and snack (usually at least 20 g/meal or snack), I actually don’t always recommend eating any protein before bed. Now, some people can get away with this and you definitely have to pay attention to your own body, and there are certain types of protein that can be great before bed, but for the most part, I recommend not eating it after dinner at all. Protein has a tendency to disrupt sleep, and it’s something I go into a lot more details with one-on-one clients to determine whether or not protein before bed is kosher or not. But as a general rule, stick with carbohydrates (with a focus on fiber) and fat.
Give a bedtime snack a chance.
Some of you may still be thinking, “if I eat before bed, I can’t sleep.” And for those of you who have had trouble with it in the past, think back at WHAT you were eating before bed. Eating junk food, ice cream and a lot of your classic bedtime snacks do a lot more harm than good as they can cause sharp increases (and subsequent crashes) in blood sugar throughout the night. Not only can this keep you awake, it can also cause indigestion or heartburn. This is not the idea, obviously. Many people have trouble with mindless snacking and picking at sh*t in the fridge all evening (hi, I’m raising my hand here). But, what if you KNEW you had permission to have a delicious, carby, fatty snack before bed? Would you eat mindlessly all night? Probably not.
Ok, ok, here’s what you’ve been waiting for.
Treats I recommend before bed:
- 1/2 c cooked oatmeal + 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1/2 banana or apple drizzled with + 1 Tbsp almond butter + 1 tsp chocolate chips
- Banana, pear or peach sautéed in 1 tsp coconut oil and top with chopped walnuts and cinnamon
- Bowl of broccoli or green beans with 1 oz melted cheese or 1 Tbsp grass-fed butter
- Half of a sweet potato with 1 Tbsp peanut butter drizzled on top
- Whole Avocado Toast, minus the egg
- The Best Damn Guacamole + raw veggies or Crispy Baked Potato Chips
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Snack Bar
- A cup of Cream of Coconut Tomato Soup or Spicy Vegetable Soup topped with cheese or avocado
- 5 oz glass of wine + a couple pieces of dark chocolate (YEP – carbs and fat!!)
If you guys think of other good bedtime snacks, let me know! I’m always looking for new ideas. My personal favorite is a bowl of veggies with melted butter or cheese. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I do have a cheese tooth.