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3 Reasons to Eat a Midnight Snack…and Not Feel Bad About It

Posted Sep 18 2010 12:48pm

How many times have you heard that eating after 8 p.m. is bad? News flash: you’ve heard wrong. An after-hours snack can actually help you lose weightnot gain it. Keep reading to find out why we endorse midnight snacking.

Forget the hour. Listen to your body clock instead

credit: coolbuzz.org

It’s 12:02 a.m., my stomach is growling, and I’m eating. Gasp! I know; I’m breaking the rules. ”Don’t eat after 8 p.m.,” say all the nutrition and fitness experts, but we’ve done our research and discovered 3 reasons why late-night eating is no longer a diet sabotage.

1. Midnight snacks keep your metabolism revved up. If you ate dinner at 7 p.m. and didn’t have anything until you woke up at 7 a.m., you would have gone 12 hours without feeding your muscles. This is a recipe for muscle loss, especially if you’re already dieting and restricting calories to lose those stubborn summer margarita pounds. And if you lose muscle mass, your metabolism will slow and losing weight will become even more difficult. So to support muscle tissue maintenance, eating a small snack of slow digesting proteins and carbohydrates is ideal

2. Bedtime snacks can actually help you sleep better. Eating a snack before hitting the sack will increase secretion of leptin, the hormone that signalssatiety (the body’s feeling of gratification after eating, feeling full), and suppress ghrelin, the hormone that signals your body to stay awake. Plus, getting a good night’s sleep (~8 hours) supports weight loss. Two for the price of onenice!

3. Midnight munchies can prevent overeating the next day. If you’re eating healthy throughout the dayconsuming 4 mini-meals consisting of 400-500 caloriesyour body will become accustomed to eating every 3-4 hours. Waiting 12 hours between dinner and the next day’s breakfast will leave you feeling ravenous when your wake up. A snack before bed will keep your eating cycle consistent, promoting a speedy metabolism and regulating your hunger spikes.

But not just any snack will do

In order to benefit from the midnight snack, one needs to know what makes the perfect midnight snack. You can’t eat just anything. Pizza, hamburgers and fried foods, for example, do more harm than good. These are full meals that can actually spike insulin levels, which may interrupt your sleep. Here are some midnight snacking guidelines and examples of wise food choices.

Guidelines:

credit: livelighter.org

  • A snack is small and should not turn into a heavy meal
  • Keep it to 200 calories or less
  • The perfect bedtime snack contains complex carbohydrates, lean protein and a bit of heart-healthy fats
  • Avoid caffeine, spicy and high-fat foods, which can cause heartburn or acid reflux
  • Snacks should take 5 minutes to make and require little assembly and clean up

Snack ideas:

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese (1%), half a banana or apple (sliced), and 1/2

    credit: ifood.tv

    ounce of walnuts

  • 1/2 cup of healthy cereal with 1/2 cup of non-fat milk or soy milk
  • 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich
  • Small bowl of low-salt, no butter popcorn with 2 teaspoons of Parmesan cheese
  • Scrambled egg on 1/2 of a whole-wheat English muffin

Next time someone tells you not to hit the fridge after the sun goes down, tell them to go climb a tree. I assure you, they won’t get too far on an empty stomach.

Happy snacking, friends.

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