So, you wake up, filled with guilt, vowing to never eat after 8 p.m. again. Take heart, however. More recent research suggests that eating late at night might not be as harmful as once thought. The bigger issue, experts say, is what we eat after dark.
Eating At Night: The Real Story
Perhaps most of us associate eating late with how we eat during a night of socializing, or when, how and what we eat why we're at home in front of the TV.
When socializing, you typically eat a big meal followed by some drinks, including wine and other beverages. And at home, your snack bowl may be filled with potato chips or ice cream.
Science, however, suggests that eating late doesn't have much of an impact if you're consuming the same amount of calories during the day.
What Research Shows
In some studies, it's been shown that nighttime eating can actually help your body burn calories the next day. A study at Florida State University showed that subjects (college-age, active men) had faster metabolisms the next morning after consuming 150-calorie healthy shakes than after consuming a zero-calorie drink.
Make It Healthy (Protein)
Consuming a bowl of buttered popcorn or ice cream before bed isn't going to do much for your waistline or your metabolism, obviously. But a healthy, small snack isn't disastrous. The same Florida State research team showed that a nightly portion of casein protein can have positive effects.
Casein is a dairy protein found in cottage cheese, milk or Greek yogurt (and in a powder form as a supplement). It's a protein that's slowly absorbed, and can be a source of protein for people who work out first thing in the morning, before eating. Better yet, casein doesn't have added sugar or carbs. Instead of ice cream, have a late-night snack of unsweetened Greek yogurt.
Some Other Healthy Late-Night Snacks
- Frozen fruit like berries and bananas have a texture close to ice cream or sorbet, and will satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Multigrain Pretzels are perhaps not the optimal late-night snack, particularly in excess, but one handful carries just over 100 calories.
- Air-popped popcorn without butter; sprinkle on a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese instead.
Working with a professional trainer like those at the Downtown Athletic Club in Amarillo can help you structure a fitness and nutrition program to fit your needs.