Thanks to a wide range of studies revealing both positive and negative effects, we’re never really given a definitive answer when asking if we should eat before bed or not. So what arguments are there that need to be taken into consideration?

“Eating before bed causes weight gain”

We’re often told (or assume) that our metabolism slows down when we’re asleep, but we now know that this isn’t true. In fact, our basal metabolic rate averages the same at night as it does during the day, which means our bodies still require energy while we sleep. So, why would eating before bed cause us to gain more weight than if we were to eat in the daytime?

The only real way this argument can be considered credible is if you take 2 people with the same diet and lifestyle, but give one of them a meal before bed. Assuming the person who isn’t eating before bed is maintaining their weight, the person who is will gain a small amount of weight each day.

However, this is just a simple matter of calories in vs calories out, so the fact that the additional meal is being consumed before bed is completely irrelevant. Studies have shown that people who eat before bed are more likely to gain weight, but that’s not necessarily linked to when they’re eating. It’s just a reflection of their eating habits and how they’re more likely to be consuming too many calories.

Eating before bed can actually promote weight loss.

Some evidence actually suggests the complete opposite and that a bedtime snack may actually promote weight loss, not weight gain.

If you’re the type of person to eat a big portion of your calories at the end of the day (usually after going to bed), having something small to eat between dinner and bed time can actually help control your desire for late-night snacking.

In a 4-week study of night-snackers, participants who began eating one bowl of cereal and milk 90 minutes after dinner ate an average of 397 fewer calories per day.

Thanks to this decrease in their calorie intake, they lost an average of 1.85 pounds (0.84 kilograms) from this change alone.

So this study actually suggests that adding a small snack between dinner and bed time may help snackers feel satisfied enough to eat less than they would have done otherwise, leading to increased possibility of weight loss.

Eating before bed may promote a better sleep.

Whilst limited research has been done on this topic, it’s not uncommon for people to report a deeper sleep following a meal, or that they’re not woken by hunger during the night.

It’s important to note that sleep deprivation has actually been linked to overeating and weight gain – another possible reason not to avoid food before bed.

Some evidence also indicates that a meal rich in fat can improve sleep quality, with other studies suggesting that consuming a meal that’s high in complex carbohydrate and glycemic index before bed can help you fall asleep. This is down to carbohydrates improving the transportation of the amino acid tryptophan, which can be converted into neurotransmitters that help regulate sleep.

So, should I eat before bed?

Assuming you’re maintaining a balanced diet and not consuming too many calories, there are many benefits to a light, balanced meal before bed. Just try and avoid things like caffeine, alcohol or foods high in sugar that will decrease your chances of falling into a deep sleep.

Include adequate amounts of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates in your dinner so that you satisfy your hunger before sleep and don’t wake up in the night to the sound of your stomach rumbling.

Consider foods like nuts, hummus, carrots, healthy cereals, peanut butter, crackers or cheese.