The Midnight Snack Debate: When Should You Be Eating?

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When I was growing up my grandmother used to live by three rules:

  1. Margarine wasn’t allowed in her house
  2. You never touched the TV when she was watching Matlock or MASH
  3. All meals went heavy in the morning, heavier in the afternoon, light in the evening, no snacking before bed.

Now, I got my knuckles rapped for a couple of those, I will admit. I used to think they were just silly rules from a slightly eccentric and very vocal old woman who was set in her ways. Much to the detriment of my sleeping patterns I definitely didn’t follow the last one, eating chicken wings and pizza at two in the morning like I was a hungry, hungry hippo and the world was my marbles.

As I have gotten older my digestion isn’t quite as ironclad as it once was. No more can I have four ice cream sundaes in a single sitting and not feel as though death has put a pall on me. And I have to worry now about the boring life concerns my younger self would have laughed at, such as heart disease and weight gain.

So was my grandmother right? Sort of…let’s break down the facts, shall we?

Eating Late At Night Is No Bueno

As one of the studies linked above shows, eating late at night (particularly certain foods) can knock your circadian rhythm out of whack. That means interrupted sleep, which comes with a whole host of its own problems.

But that isn’t all; your blood sugar levels can also be impacted, and you are less likely to burn the calories needed to balance out your intake versus energy expenditure when you are sleeping. So you could be gaining weight with every late night meal, or even by eating too heavily too close to bedtime.

Turns out my grandmother may have been onto something there.

Eating Before and After a Workout

A big question many people have is whether or not they should be eating before or after a workout. Certainly some people prefer to keep their stomach empty and replenish, but there is no right or wrong answer. It will depend on how your body copes and distributes energy during intense activity.

What we do know is that your body needs protein to repair damage to muscles done during a workout. To build those muscles your body needs fat and carbs, both of which act as an energy source. So you should either be eating before or after, depending on your preference, but make sure it is nutritionally balanced.

Also keep in mind that those nutrients can’t be properly absorbed if you are not hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.

The Verdict

My grandmother might not have been spot on, but she was right about one thing: you should restrict your food in the evening hours. As for when working out you need to eat, but it doesn’t really matter when.

In fact, that is what most research suggests. Different people benefit from eating at different times, as long as it is done during the day. That might show why methods such as intermittent fasting done between the hours of 8 PM and 12 PM the next day have been proven so effective.

Maybe it isn’t so much when we eat but what we eat that matters.

Kevin Jones has mastered a busy lifestyle with work and fitness combined with family life. He writes offering solutions for personal fitness and time management as well as keeping families fit together by utilizing activities and diet. You can read more of Kevin’s writings by connecting with him online; LinkedInTwitter

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