6

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Eating before sleeping

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created February 15, 2010 at 4:13 AM

What is everyone's opinion on eating before bed? I've always eaten before going to bed. One sick thing I used to do was if I knew I had to be up early, I would pound a few tacos from Taco Bell and ride the insulin crash to sleepy-town. I obviously know that's a bad habit. I'm a week into Paleo/Primal, whatever you want to call it. Semantics aren't important to me. I've read books where people swore that you should have a protein shake before bed on workout days and I've read people that say you shouldn't eat within 4 hours of sleeping. I have an urge to follow my gut, literally, and have a small carb free fatty/protein rich snack before bed if I'm hungry. What is the community consensus on this issue?

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on August 16, 2010
at 11:22 PM

IF isn't just about weight loss, it's about bein in a favourable hormonal state most of the time, especially one of lowered insulin. This affects much more than your weight.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on August 16, 2010
at 10:00 PM

Where is said blurb?

4ab3b10d52010fcb0d00b1a893b3d9df

(194)

on August 16, 2010
at 02:52 PM

Robb Wolf mentioned in his pod cast that you are better off not eating before going to bed, this way your body will not use energy to digest the food, and you will get a better rest.

F3951b3141a6ab7036b33e70b4bfad71

(269)

on August 16, 2010
at 02:48 PM

Heartburn, at any age, is more of an indication of acid/base balance I thought...so keep it balanced.

72a1e3ccf044c2fe1f994e10927e18a8

(183)

on August 15, 2010
at 12:45 AM

Depends what your goals are Fat loss: maximize time between calorie intake. Disadvantage: your body will break down muscle as well as fat during a non-feeding period Muscle building: You need surges in amino acids. A protein shake whey + cottage cheese or milk will give you both a fast digesting and slow digesting protein which equals 2 protein spikes and increases muscle synthesis. Also decreases time between feeding = less muscle degradation Don't worry about it too much. Chances are that since you're considering this you're already micromanaging enough

F8fa4b0809d3b74fcf0361c0d53b60c1

(911)

on June 02, 2010
at 08:30 PM

It sounds to me like skipping dinner is getting your sympathetic nervous system fired up for a fast.

B4313b18cc03036a6147543d7b0872d6

(566)

on June 02, 2010
at 02:22 AM

I'm not quite 50s yet--but darn close--and I've found that only late carb or spicy meals give me digestive issues late at night. A good steak cooked in butter sits quite nicely, causing no odd dreams. :-)

A1a4882d31414600b2cab395a5b17161

(699)

on May 04, 2010
at 03:31 AM

Not everyone is looking to burn fat. I am very lean and wonder if there are health concerns about eating before bed other than whether I might gain a little fat that I can burn off anyways.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on February 19, 2010
at 06:05 PM

What's the reasoning/evidence behind the idea of avoiding muscle loss by eating more or eating before sleeping? Does the body really resort to muscle protein when fasting for 10-12 hours overnight?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 19, 2010
at 04:00 AM

Amen! With age comes wisdom.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 19, 2010
at 03:58 AM

Just read a blurb that indicated the a certain amount of calories ingested early in the day led to weiht loss whereas the same amount of calories later in the day didn't. ??? Mexicans eat their main meal early and only snack in the evening.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on February 15, 2010
at 07:01 AM

"A common piece of paleo advice is to eat when you're hungry and don't eat when you aren't hungry. If you're hungry before bed, go for it. If you aren't, don't force it." I think this is the key.

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12 Answers

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7
5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6

on February 15, 2010
at 04:40 AM

I think I read the same books that you did. A few years ago, I used to end pretty much every night with a bowl of cottage cheese -- the logic being that the slow release of the casein protein would spare muscle overnight. I feel that this helped but don't have hard data to back that up.

From what I've read regarding the science that's been done, it has been shown rather conclusively that, in terms of weight gain/loss, it doesn't matter when you consume food, assuming you aren't adding stuff you wouldn't have eaten otherwise -- i.e. eating a big meal at 7pm is no different than eating a smaller meal at 7pm and a snack at 10pm. Obviously, getting in the habit of binging on junk food would be a bad thing and I think this is probably the origin of the myth that eating before bed is bad since people tend to think of stuff like cookies with milk as a bed time snack versus something like a protein shake. Other studies seem to suggest that eating before bed does help to spare muscle overnight.

I did some googling and found this link that has some good links to relevant studies: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/755705.html

From a paleo standpoint, I'm not sure what our ancestors did back then. They had access to nuts and berries to snack on and it wouldn't be surprising if they ate something if they got hungry before bed. A common piece of paleo advice is to eat when you're hungry and don't eat when you aren't hungry. If you're hungry before bed, go for it. If you aren't, don't force it.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on February 15, 2010
at 07:01 AM

"A common piece of paleo advice is to eat when you're hungry and don't eat when you aren't hungry. If you're hungry before bed, go for it. If you aren't, don't force it." I think this is the key.

6
F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661

on February 15, 2010
at 04:25 PM

Not sure if eating before bed is good or bad but you pass on a golden opportunity for a nice long fast. Eat an early dinner. sleep. break the fast around lunchtime the next day. It's intermittent fasting built right into your natural schedule. Or to put it another way, eat only between noon and 5pm daily and give your body the rest of the day to digest it.

4
58a55f0986b8f49a8bc5666e10492569

on February 15, 2010
at 03:16 PM

I think your stomach really wants to be finished digesting the last meal before sleeping.

In your late twenties, you can get away with eating late at night and might only suffer some weird dreams.

In your late fifties, though, you could awake in a few hours with some wicked heartburn.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 19, 2010
at 04:00 AM

Amen! With age comes wisdom.

B4313b18cc03036a6147543d7b0872d6

(566)

on June 02, 2010
at 02:22 AM

I'm not quite 50s yet--but darn close--and I've found that only late carb or spicy meals give me digestive issues late at night. A good steak cooked in butter sits quite nicely, causing no odd dreams. :-)

F3951b3141a6ab7036b33e70b4bfad71

(269)

on August 16, 2010
at 02:48 PM

Heartburn, at any age, is more of an indication of acid/base balance I thought...so keep it balanced.

2
E034f6701c594115b9579d0f2c8f23b1

on November 25, 2011
at 05:05 AM

I know I can fall asleep better and stay asleep better when I eat (usually low carb, high fat/protein) before bed. I almost HAVE to eat before bed to fall asleep. Always have since I was a kid. I also know my dogs never liked going to sleep until they had a nice big bowl of dog food. I think it's normal for animals, and probably humans too, to sleep after eating.

2
A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on February 19, 2010
at 03:24 AM

It's interesting to note that there are two perspectives from which to approach "eating before sleeping." They are:

  1. can I avoid muscle loss?
  2. can I avoid fat storage?

Are you in a weight loss mode or a weight gain mode? Are you looking to slim down or bulk up? If you're looking to slim down, fasting may be the best course of action. Eat your last meal 10 to 12 hours before you need to wake up in the morning or skip it altogether! If you're looking to bulk up, then you may decide that following your natural instincts and eating if you're hungry (a nice paleo snack) to save muscle loss is the more optimal option!

The most important thing to do is, after researching, use yourself as a sample size of 1 and test the theories to see what works with your body.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on February 19, 2010
at 06:05 PM

What's the reasoning/evidence behind the idea of avoiding muscle loss by eating more or eating before sleeping? Does the body really resort to muscle protein when fasting for 10-12 hours overnight?

2
70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on February 15, 2010
at 06:58 PM

This is purely anecdotal, but I have discovered that whenever I skip dinner (or have a very early dinner), I stay awake longer and have more trouble falling asleep. I also then wake up unusually early on the following morning, not feeling particularly tired but definitely wanting to eat something. When I do eat something at that point, I usually get sleepy after an hour or so and go back to bed, then wake up at my usual time or a bit later.

On the one hand I like the feeling of going to bed feeling light and slightly hungry, but on the other I'm worried about the effect it has on my sleep if it means I get less than I need.

So most of the time I just eat when hungry, and if that's right before bed then so be it (as long as it's not a binge of course). If, however, I don't feel hungry at bedtime despite having gone a long time since the last meal, I don't make a point of eating before bed just for the sake of it. Essentially, my guide is hunger (not cravings).

F8fa4b0809d3b74fcf0361c0d53b60c1

(911)

on June 02, 2010
at 08:30 PM

It sounds to me like skipping dinner is getting your sympathetic nervous system fired up for a fast.

2
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on February 15, 2010
at 03:25 PM

I would have to disagree with Paleo Dave on this occasion. The success of intermittent fasting (IF) strategies would argue that it DOES matter when you consume food. You can burn more fat by spacing out your feedings. IF favorably affects your metabolism and hormonal milieu. If you eat every three hours, your body will not have a chance to tap into fat stores. That being said, I don't know that it matters what time of day you do IF. If you fast most of the day, it's probably fine to eat at bedtime. Personally, I can't eat at bedtime because it gives me acid reflux.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 19, 2010
at 03:58 AM

Just read a blurb that indicated the a certain amount of calories ingested early in the day led to weiht loss whereas the same amount of calories later in the day didn't. ??? Mexicans eat their main meal early and only snack in the evening.

A1a4882d31414600b2cab395a5b17161

(699)

on May 04, 2010
at 03:31 AM

Not everyone is looking to burn fat. I am very lean and wonder if there are health concerns about eating before bed other than whether I might gain a little fat that I can burn off anyways.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on August 16, 2010
at 11:22 PM

IF isn't just about weight loss, it's about bein in a favourable hormonal state most of the time, especially one of lowered insulin. This affects much more than your weight.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on August 16, 2010
at 10:00 PM

Where is said blurb?

0
7c5b64bdf359e7cdcb0ee15629abdaa9

(50)

on November 25, 2011
at 07:01 AM

I often eat just before sleeping. As long as it's only meat and fat, it helps me fall asleep and stay asleep. I wake up feeling great; it's weird, I seem to digest food better late at night than during the day. When I eat lunch for example, I tend to feel sluggish for the rest of the day.

I usually eat around 1.5 pounds of meat at about 11pm then go to bed.

I CANNOT eat dairy or carbs before bed or I have nightmares (from dairy) or have fitful, broken sleep and reflux (from fruit or vegies). Starches before bed don't give me nightmares or wake me in the middle of the night, but I wake up the next day feeling hung-over, bloated and fat and tired.

I'm 5'1" and weigh 108lbs, 41 years old, female. I don't gain weight eating lots of meat before bed. But then, I rarely feel like eating during the day so I guess I'm doing IF most days which probably ensures my calories don't go over 2000 most days.

I was chubby all my life and became obese by the age of 15 (finally lost all the weight when I was 22). So I know my hormones where definitely messed up in the past, but who knows, maybe the body can recover metabolic flexibility, given enough time, and if one finds the specific best fuels for their own individual metabolic needs, because I don't gain weight now eating this way.

0
95ab15c8ef50ff0daf87ccbdd52cd3b8

(2384)

on August 16, 2010
at 11:53 AM

Anecdote is not data, but eating carbs in the evening keeps me awake. I tend to limit after-dinner-before-bedtime consumption to a glass of wine or similar these days.

0
F5668ca70f56a3809aeaf3e002c8d74d

on August 13, 2010
at 11:32 PM

Ithink eating before bed is ok if you like that sort of thing.

0
8d4352f99dbb40312ad219a201d488f3

(25)

on June 02, 2010
at 12:01 AM

for me both works. eating before sleeping, when i wanna have a warm body. And when i wanna have strong dreams.

Like some say never say no.

On the other side if ure in comfort place it feels good with more empty bodytosleep. but usuly be happy that there is food. other people on this planet never ever ask this question. starving to death during sleping is the third alternativ.

0
Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 19, 2010
at 11:08 PM

paleo re-enactment: Does it sound reasonable that major eating was probably done at the latest fairly soon after sunset since there was not much else to do then? Of course, I have seen stories of hunting at night by moonlight, but that is the exception more than the rule. If that is correct then the next question is how early did hunter/gatherers go to bed?

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