If you’ve done even the slightest bit of research into how to lose weight (or simply had a conversation on the topic), you probably know sure that eating before bed = bad. But here’s the thing… it actually isn’t. At least, not all the time.
A calorie is a calorie, no matter what time of day. It’s just a myth that metabolism slows down at night and leads to weight gain. Whether you’re sleeping or awake, your basal metabolic rate is pretty much the same. The reason people who snack before bed are more likely to gain weight is because that little nighttime nosh tends to be extra intake, as opposed to intentionally allocated calories. And, since people tend to be hungriest at night and often eat in front of the TV, it’s all too easy to eat way more than you intended.
That’s not the end of the good news, though. If you do it right, eating before bed can actually help you lose weight. One of the keys to shedding pounds is keeping your blood sugar stable so that glucagon, the hormone that burns fat, can work properly. If you go to bed without eating, your blood sugar will crash soon after you start to snooze, and your glucagon can’t do what it’s supposed to.
So that’s that–eating before bed it is! But again, you’ve got to do it right. The key, believe it or not, is carbs. Specifically, complex carbs like whole grains and produce paired with protein or fat. This pairing works because the carbs provide an energy source (which is necessary even when you’re sleeping), and the protein or fat keeps your blood sugar stable and helps you stay full. The other key is accountability and commitment. Remember, the reason people tend to gain weight when they eat at night is because that’s when they’re most likely to eat more than they intend to. It’s essential, then, that you get whatever support you need in order to stick to your planned intake at bedtime. One great option is an app like Noom, which can provide both peer and professional accountability whenever and wherever you need it.
Now that we’ve got all the science down, it’s time for the fun part: the best carbs to eat before bed for weight loss. Remember, complex carbs combined with fat or protein is where it’s at. Keep your entire snack under about 200 calories, and portion it out before you start to snack in order to ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of overeating. An easy and satisfying place to start is with whole-wheat crackers and cheese. Four crackers and a stick of part-skim string cheese will keep you under about 150 calories, and get you the combo of carbs and protein that you need. Similarly, a piece of whole-grain bread topped with a slice of turkey (and some mustard, lettuce, and tomato if you want to get really fancy) won’t top 200 calories. And don’t forget that fruits and veggies count as carbs, too. An apple or banana with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter (or whatever nut butter you prefer) is another great option. And if it’s another complex carb you like best, go for it! Just be sure to keep your portions to the proper size and mix it with a fat or a protein.
The editors at SheFinds wrote this article in partnership with Noom.