Night snacks and fat loss have always been things that we’ve been told never go well together. Is eating at night when you’re hungry such a bad thing for fat loss?
I have had so many nights when I was staying alone, working, going to the gym and having to cook for myself, you might be going through more, having to look after your family. There were nights where I would eat an hour before I went to bed and I had managed to maintain my body at low body fat. I wanted to know where this notion comes from that eating late at night hinders your fat loss or makes you gain fat.
It is important to understand that for you gain fat, you must consistently be consuming more calories than you burn, this is called being in a calorie surplus. The problem comes in where some food takes longer for the body to digest than other food and this results in overnight weight gain for various reasons.
The problem that comes is that night snacks usually result in poor food choices, things that are very salty or sugary and when this is a regular occurrence, you might be shooting over your calorie needs more than you realize.
Does Eating Late Cause Belly Fat?
Belly fat occurs when your body starts storing the excess energy you consume in your fat cells, unfortunately, you cannot choose where to store or lose fat (spot reduction), so this may be in your stomach, arms, legs or anywhere.
Belly fat is the result of consistently poor and unhealthy choices in the food that you eat regardless of when you eat them, they are usually high in carbs, fat and calories which can result in calorie surplus.
You must consume whole and nutrient-dense foods that ensure your calorie needs are met, you are provided with sufficient nutrients for your health and gut and also feel full for longer, preventing overeating and a calorie surplus.
No matter what you eat at night, if you’re within your daily calorie needs, you won’t gain belly fat.
Does Eating at Night Make You Gain Weight?
Weight is the mass you have due to gravity and will always change more often than not, because your body is doing the same.
When you’re eating, drinking or going to the bathroom to release, your body weight changes accordingly and when you eat at night, this doesn’t change. Your body gains weight, temporarily, when you eat at night and you see it in the morning. Here are some reasons for this:
- A high-carb day that lead to your body taking longer to digest all the food that you consumed.
- You had more sodium (salty things) than usual, which lead to your body retaining more water.
- An intense workout the day before makes you store more glycogen in your body to fuel the broken down muscles.
- You didn’t take a poop the day before, so now you have food that hasn’t gone through the channels or you need to urinate.
- Your body takes longer to digest food when you’ve eaten later than usual and this could show in the morning on the scale.
What Time Should You Stop Eating at Night to Lose Fat?
The time you eat shouldn’t be determined by the myths that you hear about fat loss, but rather by the amount of calories that you have consumed in the day.
Eating your dinner at 6 pm or 9 pm doesn’t matter with regards to fat loss. The amount of calories you’ve had on that day will be the main criteria to determine when you should stop eating.
If you worried that you’ve gone over your calorie needs, drink water or tea as they won’t affect your calorie count, they will help you feel full and sleep easier.
Night snacks do not have to be the first things you look for in your fat loss journey, but there are snacks that you can look to, which can you get further down.
The Benefits of Eating Less or Not Eating at Night
You want to minimize your calorie intake when you want to lose fat, but this does not mean that you must starve yourself. Dinner must be sufficient enough to be full and not wanting more. You must always drink something like water with it to take it down and ensure you’re not hungry after eating.
You can increase the chances of your carbs being used up throughout out the day when you don’t eat at night. Your body will look to other sources (i.e. fat and protein) for energy in your sleep.
The benefits of eating less or not eating at night also comes with reducing the chances of you overeating and waking up hungry. When you consume foods that are high in starch and sugar at night before bed, they can cause your blood sugar to spike.
When your blood sugar spikes, your pancreas releases insulin, which is a hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels. Insulin will cause your blood sugar levels to drop which leads to the hunger in the morning.
Insulin will also make your body look to break down and absorb gluinstead of fat. This reduces the amount of fat that you can lose in your sleep.
What to Eat at Night When You’re Hungry
It is never a nice feeling going to bed hungry, so you have got look for ways to not sleep hungry and still be in a calorie deficit for fat loss. Night snacks and fat loss can still
There are foods that you can eat which won’t negatively affect your calorie needs, will not make you sleep uncomfortably due to feeling full and can help with your fat loss journey:
- Protein shakes are usually high in protein and low in fats and calories. They will help suppress your appetite, maintain the muscle that you build and this can be helpful when you’re in a calorie deficit trying to lose fat.
- Yoghurts, especially Greek Yoghurt is high in protein and contains calcium, an important mineral for your bones. They can help prevent hunger in the morning too, always opt for plain and add your own fruit for flavour.
- Airpopped popcorn which can be eaten in high volumes, but is low in calories, will help you feel full without negatively affecting your calories, just take it easy on the salt.
- Hardboiled eggs are high in protein and take longer to digest which will help you feel full for longer.
- There are some nuts (unsalted and unflavoured), fruits (kiwis, strawberries) and vegetables that can be part of these snacks that are low in calories and healthy, which will help you sleep guilt-free.
Foods to Avoid at Night For Fat Loss
There are foods that can cause the exact things that we want to avoid for fat loss. These foods are high in sugar, fats and calories and l can lead to long-term health issues.
I understand, as mentioned before, there are days where you will want to eat or snack at night, just look to avoid these foods though. You can have them every now and then, which I recommend, but don’t make a habit out eating them excessively, because they can cause you to gain fat:
- Quick snacks that are sweet and delicious for dessert are usually high in sugar and fats. E.g. cakes, ice creams, sweetened fruits and fruit juice etc.
- Highly processed food that is rich in saturated fats, carbs and calories, which can also add bad cholesterol to your body. E.g. French fries, white bread and pizzas etc.
Click here for more detailed examples of foods to avoid when you want to lose fat. Night snacks and fat loss not being a good combination is something that comes with the fact that when you sleep you metabolism slows down.
This lowering of the metabolism doesn’t necessarily mean that you burn less calories than throughout the day, but eating carbs and starch before you sleep can mean for your body to take longer to digest the food and you potentially waking up hungry.