I really enjoy your site! Thanks for keeping it simple and straightforward. My question is this: how late should I eat?
I have heard that you should eat about 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. I have also heard that you should eat when you’re hungry. For me the two conflict sometimes. Any insight would be appreciated.
Hey Naomi, how are you?
You’ve asked yet another fantastic question that I believe has caused a lot of controversy and confusion.
I’ve heard many gurus, trainers, even some nutritionists and dieticians suggest not eating after certain hours, usually in the 6 – 8 pm range. Well, I totally disagree! Your body doesn’t shut off at a certain hour; in fact it’s a constantly running machine that requires fuel for energy, maintenance and repair all day, everyday. Truthfully, it never takes a break and is the hardest, most dedicated worker you’ll ever meet.
The concept of breakfast, lunch and dinner is a man made phenomenon. One look at the animal planet and you’ll see that what dictates whether a species eats or not is hunger. It’s your body’s way of saying, “hey, I need fuel”, and so you eat. The idea that going without food for 12 hours is a healthy approach to weight loss is just crazy to me. One of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy weight and body mass is the amount of muscle tissue your body has. Guess what those muscles need? Fuel, as in protein, a bit of carbs and some healthy fat, and the only way to keep them in a healthy, fed state is by supplying regular, continuous feedings. The alternative is not eating for hours, and becoming catabolic after many hours of no nutrients.
With that said, I’m not suggesting that at 11pm you sit down and have a huge pasta meal, with cheese and meatballs. Nor am I saying that it’s not important what, and how much you eat at certain times of the day. Heck, in my bodybuilding days I’d make a shake at bedtime, set my alarm for 3 am, wake up, slam it down and go back to bed. No, I’m not suggesting for you to do that, just reminiscing and making a point!
I think a huge piece of the food puzzle that get’s skipped over is called nutrient timing. Many people eat the right things, but at the wrong time of day. For instance, bananas and other fruits are a great source of fuel, contain vitamins and have many healthy properties. But I wouldn’t eat a fruit bowl at 10pm. Why? Because you have nearly zero chance of using those simple calories for fuel. Simply put, the fuel doesn’t match the demand. Unless of course you’re about to have a late night workout and need the fuel.
Here’s what I recommend – if you’re hungry, then eat! Depending on what time of day it is, and what your activity level is, decide what’s an appropriate meal, meaning the total number of calories, sugars and total carbs, fats, and proteins. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not doing much and your activity is low, I’d suggest staying away from simple sugars that provide a great source of fuel and choose more fibrous foods like veggies, with moderate protein and some healthy fats. Also, as your activity level declines, I’d drop how many calories you’re taking in, so at 9 pm, a palm size piece of fish with broccoli would be a great choice or maybe an egg white omelet with one yolk. Do you follow me?
What’s most interesting is that I don’t think many people know that their bodies can’t store protein for later use. Unlike carbohydrates, that get stored in the muscle cells in the form of glycogen and used “on demand”, your body relies on the food that you eat to supply a steady flow of amino acids and muscle building and maintaining protein. So you can see why going without food for nearly half a day isn’t a great choice. Plus, I’m a huge believer in making your body stay at work while asleep. If you don’t eat for long periods you’re basically fasting, which slows your metabolism down. Almost every night I have a huge bowl of salad, or veggies, or something high in fiber to keep the metabolic machinery churning overnight.
At the end of the day, as long as you don’t overeat you can eat whenever want. You only gain body fat one way – eating too much food on a regular basis.
Let me know how it goes and if any of you out there would like to book a more in-depth consultation with me – just drop me a line via the How To Book button in the sidebar.
And if you have a question – please just click here. I’d love to help you!
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