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It is three hours post-dinner and you are ready to hit the sack, when your stomach begins to grumble and you end up eating a mini snack at bedtime and retire to bed with the guilt of having snacked at bedtime.
We have been told time and again to avoid eating at bed time, as it can lead to the piling up of unnecessary calories and weight gain. But, is eating before bedtime so bad after all, and is that really the one major reason for weight gain? Let's explore.
Should you eat before bed or not is always a controversial hot topic among nutritionists. By bedtime snacking, we are referring to the time post dinner and before bedtime. Here are some of the merits and demerits linked to bedtime snacking. Read on.
Demerits Of Bedtime Snacking:
• The general belief is that eating before bedtime leads to weight gain. This is because your body metabolism slows down towards evening, particularly towards the bedtime, and hence any undigested calories would be stored as fat.
• Eating before bed is linked to weight gain mainly because you tend to do lighter activities such as reading a book, watching TV at bedtime, etc.
• If you are suffering from problems such as acid reflux, it is better to avoid eating anything at least three hours before bedtime, as symptoms can worsen, particularly if you eat foods that trigger acidity.
• Generally, eating before bedtime is considered to be an unhealthy habit.
Merits Of Bedtime Snacking:
Although the general notion is that eating before bed is not a good idea, it may be beneficial for some.
• Just as it is believed that eating before sleep leads to weight gain, it is said that the same habit can lead to weight loss too. That is because, having a light healthy snack after dinner just before bedtime can control your urge to snack in the middle of the night, which most people do.
• Eating before bed can help some people sleep better, as it prevents them from waking up hungry at night, and leaves them full and satisfied. Undisturbed sleep will prevent overeating and thereby, weight gain.
• It is a wrong notion that when sleeping, our body does not require energy. The fact is, while we are asleep, our body is still burning the fat and it requires energy.
• A healthy bedtime snack can also help boost your brain power the next day.
• There has been no evidence-based study to prove that even a small, healthy snack at bedtime can lead to weight gain.
• In diabetics, having a light, healthy snack at bedtime can stabilize the blood sugar levels and provide them with the energy they need to begin their day the next morning. It also helps diabetics to sleep through the night without feeling the hunger pangs.
How To Make Bedtime Snacking Healthy And Beneficial?
Although there is no perfect recipe for a bedtime snack, you should know that high-calorie foods such as junk foods and creamy desserts such as ice creams or chips are best avoided at bedtime.
Avoid eating unhealthy fats and high-sugar foods that trigger cravings and overeating. Although eating before bed by itself does not make you gain weight, eating such high-calorie foods certainly can.
If you have a sweet-tooth have limited quantities of walnuts, cherries, or kiwis that actually promote production of sleep hormone melatonin.
Swap ice cream for a protein-rich snack like low-fat yogurt or tofu. As your body repairs muscles when you sleep, you would be doing a lot of good by boosting protein intake before bed.
A combination of protein with carbs is considered best to follow at bedtime. Pairing small amount of protein with fat can also help in keeping your blood sugar stable.
Some recommended bedtime snack ideas include whole-grain crackers, grapes, apples, peanut butter, etc.
So, what is the best thing to do? There is no 'one size fits all' answer to this question. It completely depends on the individual. Despite the negatives being said about eating before going to sleep, many nutritionists and health experts still suggest that it is perfectly okay to eat before bed, if you must.
But, the thumb rule here is to focus on what you eat and the portion size. Do not indulge in your favourite foods at bedtime and make a habit out of snacking on unhealthy foods at bedtime. But, eating limited portion of a healthy snack will not cause any harm and should be just fine.