4

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What's the deal with eating X hours before going to bed?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 17, 2011 at 8:29 AM

I usually eat at 9-9.30PM and go to bed at 10.30PM. Yet some people say they have dinner at 6PM? That's so weird...

Maybe it's because I'm from a sunny area and over here the sun stays up later (Mediterranean).

Are there drawbacks when it comes to digestion/assimilation?

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 10, 2012
at 12:01 AM

Yeah, haha, living up north means this isn't so useful I think. When I was staying with relative in Yukon, you'd walk home in the afternoon and it would be dark out! Not to mention my Inuit friends who think it's pretty normal to not have the sun for weeks. Must be some regional variations on this.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on August 30, 2011
at 06:06 PM

I think it's about finding the balance between a full tummy and hungry. I'm not really suggesting that anyone go to be hungry; but instead I'm suggesting that going to be with a tummy full of food to digest may not be helpful if you're trying to lose weight. Time your evening meal accordingly so that you're neither full nor hungry at bedtime. ;)

Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

(5541)

on August 30, 2011
at 06:03 PM

This may work for a lot of people but for a lot of others, like myself, going to bed hungry just isn't a possibility. I've also heard Robb Wolf and others talk about sleep quality being disturbed by a rise in cortisol due to a lack of calories causing a stress response when sleeping fasted. Your answer is awesome gillie, just providing another perspective ;)

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on August 30, 2011
at 04:26 PM

Okay then read TS Wiley's book and pay attention where she talks about how the different spectrum of light at sunset (the more orange color) cues different hormone signaling.

40449b985898b088a64660b40f329f0f

(951)

on August 30, 2011
at 04:07 PM

Thanks for this.

5e6a6f5c0fd3ab048f81c0a500206f41

(956)

on August 30, 2011
at 03:36 PM

hah i was just about to link to this same article! its kinda long and goes pretty in depth but its a good read if you are interested in learning more about the topic!

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on August 30, 2011
at 03:13 PM

Ayurvedic lifestyle wisdom is great in many ways. But it's also tailored for India and not us who live in Washington state. I second Olivia's comment.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on August 17, 2011
at 10:13 PM

It's actually better to do it right before bed since the insulin response (and subsequent downregulation of lipolysis via HSL) is at a time when you aren't moving about. Therefore, your activity during the day has a better mitochondrial energy substrate (fat). Additionally, you can replete your glycogen effectively without negatively impacting satiety during waking hours.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 17, 2011
at 09:38 PM

travis, i'm not an authority by any means. no sir. but i'm willing to wager large sums that while this works perfectly for you, this is very far from something that should be taken as universal advice. i'm sorry to disparage in anyway, but i simply think that for the vast majority of folks on this planet, eating nearly a quarter pound of sweet potato just before falling asleep is a disaster waiting to happen. that can, and likely will, make most people fatter.

D89511137c1849427593b3ef172578cb

(395)

on August 17, 2011
at 08:49 PM

I understand, I meant to say it was "weird" for me. People in the Mediterranean usually eat between 9-11pm, even during the winter.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 17, 2011
at 04:17 PM

If some of us followed that we'd be eating dinner at around 3:30pm in the winter That doesn't seem right to me.

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13 Answers

3
A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM

I think that if you are fit, have good body comp and no adrenal fatigue, then you're probably fine to continue eating on your current schedule.

However, if you have body fat to lose or hormonal issues to clear up... Then I suggest eating earlier.

From Chapter 15 in the book "Mastering Leptin" by Byron J. Richards with Mary Guignon Richards, the authors say this:

Leptin levels rise at night. They follow a twenty-four hour pattern of natural rhythm of natural balance. They peak in the evening hours and are the highest during the first two hours of sleep. They gradually fall during the night and reach their lowest level around noon; then they begin to rise again. ... When leptin works properly, a high leptin level tells you that you are full; there is no desire to eat. Therefore, it is completely natural not to be hungry after dinner or before bed. There are a variety of reasons for this, one of which is that your body has functions other than digestion to carry out during sleep. ... A person with leptin resistance, too, has higher levels of leptin at night, but the brain is not able to perceive the message.

With this in mind the authors recommend...

Rule 1 - Never eat after dinner. Allow eleven to twelve hours between dinner and breakfast. Never go to bed on a full stomach. Finish eating dinner at least three hours before bed. ... Improperly timed eating can disrupt thyroid hormone, growth hormone, adrenal hormones, sex hormones, and melatonin, and it throws the body out of rhythm...

They continue...

Sleep is a prime metabolic time. It is when individuals can access the stores of fat that they wish to lose. This works well when no food has been consumed for eleven to twelve hours and the quality of sleep is good. ... During the night, your body gradually begins to burn a higher portion of fat for fuel. Nine hours after dinner it is quite likely that the readily available fats have been used, and your body will dip into the fat savings account. Therefore, nine to twelve hours after dinner are prime fat-burning hours, in terms of accessing the fat stores in the buttocks, thighs and stomach. If anything is eaten before bed, this prime fat-burning time is shut off! This principle is not going to change; it is a fact of biochemistry.

This all depends on your own needs and your own schedule. Judge your fitness, health, and schedule accordingly and tweak your mealtimes as needed!

P.S. This rule worked for me.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on August 30, 2011
at 06:06 PM

I think it's about finding the balance between a full tummy and hungry. I'm not really suggesting that anyone go to be hungry; but instead I'm suggesting that going to be with a tummy full of food to digest may not be helpful if you're trying to lose weight. Time your evening meal accordingly so that you're neither full nor hungry at bedtime. ;)

40449b985898b088a64660b40f329f0f

(951)

on August 30, 2011
at 04:07 PM

Thanks for this.

Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

(5541)

on August 30, 2011
at 06:03 PM

This may work for a lot of people but for a lot of others, like myself, going to bed hungry just isn't a possibility. I've also heard Robb Wolf and others talk about sleep quality being disturbed by a rise in cortisol due to a lack of calories causing a stress response when sleeping fasted. Your answer is awesome gillie, just providing another perspective ;)

3
Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

on August 30, 2011
at 03:10 PM

Martin Berkhan wrote an awesome post on exactly this subject:

http://www.leangains.com/2011/06/is-late-night-eating-better-for-fat.html

Long story short: timing doesn't seem to affect anything as long as excess calories aren't being consumed due to eating later.

5e6a6f5c0fd3ab048f81c0a500206f41

(956)

on August 30, 2011
at 03:36 PM

hah i was just about to link to this same article! its kinda long and goes pretty in depth but its a good read if you are interested in learning more about the topic!

2
Medium avatar

on August 17, 2011
at 07:46 PM

I always eat 100g net carbs of sweet potato right before falling asleep, whether I ate dinner itself recently or not. I think of carbs as a glycogen repletion supplement rather than as food per se, so it's kind of unhinged from my meals. I feel great doing so and have no complaints. I've actually lost body fat since I've been doing this, so I really doubt it could make you fat.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on August 17, 2011
at 10:13 PM

It's actually better to do it right before bed since the insulin response (and subsequent downregulation of lipolysis via HSL) is at a time when you aren't moving about. Therefore, your activity during the day has a better mitochondrial energy substrate (fat). Additionally, you can replete your glycogen effectively without negatively impacting satiety during waking hours.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 17, 2011
at 09:38 PM

travis, i'm not an authority by any means. no sir. but i'm willing to wager large sums that while this works perfectly for you, this is very far from something that should be taken as universal advice. i'm sorry to disparage in anyway, but i simply think that for the vast majority of folks on this planet, eating nearly a quarter pound of sweet potato just before falling asleep is a disaster waiting to happen. that can, and likely will, make most people fatter.

1
8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on August 17, 2011
at 02:19 PM

I've eaten later in the evening off and on for years and my body weight/composition didn't change from when I was eating at 5pm. These days, I eat around 8pm. Getting home from work at 5 and working out at 6 for roughly an hour during the week, then a shower, then cooking. I can't eat any earlier really. I think what you're eating matters more than what time it is, and only eating if you're hungry. I think night time munchers who graze into the evenings after already having dinner are the ones putting on weight from 'late night eating'.

1
Medium avatar

(19469)

on August 17, 2011
at 12:08 PM

I seem to recall reading in somewhere that insulin (possibly through it's relationship to IGF-1) suppresses growth hormone release which may be one reason to avoid eating late at night, especially if it is a carbohydrate rich meal.

1
D5096ff5baffc0ba5d20b21346414a7a

(1112)

on August 17, 2011
at 11:58 AM

I grew up in the 50s with a stay at home mom. We always had supper as we called it between 5 and 6 as soon as my dad got home. The children also went to bed at 8:00. That supper time continued in college because the chow hall served between 5 and 6. I taught overseas for a semester each in Italy and Greece and nearly starved to death waiting to eat at bedtime! Nothing weird...just different cultures.

0
4164a77c7ccf4839ec7f1e665d27cc6d

(1085)

on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM

Martin Berkhan has an article that you might find interesting. Is Late Night Eating Better for Fat Loss

0
0d6c16dc3d1b43fae7364306068efd57

on April 09, 2012
at 09:51 PM

I like having my dinner usually about 3 hours before bed, but when i'm really hungry, i grab some nuts or boiled egg just before falling asleep... But i must admite, eating no later than 6 p.m. is great for fat loss for me. Only 3 days and i started to see a difference.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 17, 2011
at 03:50 PM

i want to echo what jeff said about eating an earlier dinner, "feeling right." i don't think you need to necessarily eat before the sun goes down, though i often do, but i personally don't feel good if i go to bed soon after eating. i like a good three hour margin, and i don't think it's really an issue of paleo or non-paleo, just a question of what feels right. i go with my gut on this one, so to speak!

0
64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on August 17, 2011
at 01:29 PM

The traditional Ayurvedic wisdom says to not eat after the sun has gone down. This feels right to me intuitively, and it allows you to eat later in the summer than the winter.

Also, I don't know enough about the endocrine system to exactly say, but I do know that the spectrum of light changes radiating from the sun at sunset (gets more red/orange) and that gives our bodies a signal to make melatonin, etc. That seems to curb my hunger, and I'm sure it sets off a cascade of signaling in the body that may be better without adding food into the picture.

This is my speculation but it seems pretty reasonable.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 17, 2011
at 04:17 PM

If some of us followed that we'd be eating dinner at around 3:30pm in the winter That doesn't seem right to me.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on August 30, 2011
at 04:26 PM

Okay then read TS Wiley's book and pay attention where she talks about how the different spectrum of light at sunset (the more orange color) cues different hormone signaling.

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on August 30, 2011
at 03:13 PM

Ayurvedic lifestyle wisdom is great in many ways. But it's also tailored for India and not us who live in Washington state. I second Olivia's comment.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 10, 2012
at 12:01 AM

Yeah, haha, living up north means this isn't so useful I think. When I was staying with relative in Yukon, you'd walk home in the afternoon and it would be dark out! Not to mention my Inuit friends who think it's pretty normal to not have the sun for weeks. Must be some regional variations on this.

0
351cbf133b44fb7a1b90781e148d28d7

on August 17, 2011
at 11:54 AM

5-7PM is dinner time for the average American household, from what I've seen.

0
B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

on August 17, 2011
at 10:30 AM

Since I've been doing paleo I've fallen into the habit of eating a pretty early dinner. It's summer here and it doesn't get dark until late so I don't think that affects it. I just eat when I get hungry and it's usually early and then I don't feel hungry anymore until I go to bed. I do tend to wake up pretty early though (around 5:30 to 6:00 AM) so I think that puts everything on an earlier schedule. I go to bed at 9:00 PM, even though it's still light outside.

0
6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on August 17, 2011
at 08:53 AM

I don't think its that weird. I am usually pretty hungry when I get home from work so I make my dinner. 6 is maybe at the very earliest of the dinner time window for me though, 6.30-7.00 is usually good for me.

D89511137c1849427593b3ef172578cb

(395)

on August 17, 2011
at 08:49 PM

I understand, I meant to say it was "weird" for me. People in the Mediterranean usually eat between 9-11pm, even during the winter.

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