Did you know that our metabolism works while we sleep? Research reveals there is one major dip in energy and alertness between midnight and dawn; and the second smaller dip occurs around 2-4pm known as the post-lunch dip or secondary sleep gate. In our modern society we’re not encouraged to have a siesta, but in last month’s news note, Timing is Everything, I showed you how eating at regular intervals of the day can help keep our brain from plunging into an afternoon zombie! Now, you and I were taught that eating before bedtime will keep you up and/or disturb your sleep. And some people might think that not eating before going to sleep will help them lose weight. But did you know that it’s just as destructive to go to bed for the evening hungry as it is to eat a candy bar? “Success starts the night before” not only applies to planning the next day’s meals and making a to-do list, but it also applies to evening snacks that will set your metabolism in the right mood for the next day! Here’s what happens when we eat the wrong foods (not “bad” foods, just not best foods) before bedtime or go to sleep hungry:

#1) Consuming foods high in carbohydrates will leave your stomach too quickly waking you in the middle of the night with hunger pains. Our brain runs on glucose to help us think and be alert. We don’t need that during our sleeping hours which will wake us up. And because our brain can become addicted to sugar, we look for the same high carb food that we ate before bed, that woke us up. A vicious cycle!

#2) Going to sleep hungry wakes our brain because our body senses it needs food to survive. But you’re not likely to eat a high protein food and you’ll reach for comfort food like cake, cookies, donuts or even fruit that will empty too quickly and cause a cascade of hormones that store fat in your fat cells instead of using it for energy. We can’t burn these high carb and sugary foods off when we sleep, so they are stored in our fat cells!

So how do we correct this CRAZY CYCLE of waking up in the middle of the night hungry, waking up exhausted, and never able to lose weight? Eat at night! There are only 2 things that move our metabolism: cardio exercise and food. Never wait till your famished before you eat, and that includes not going to sleep hungry. If your stomach is feeling uncomfortably empty or it’s been 3-4 hours since you ate dinner, it’s time to eat! I would never recommend eating just before bedtime. However, around an hour or two before would be suitable to plan a snack. Do NOT eat: pasta, sweets, fruit by itself or fruit juice. Simple carb foods like these are fast absorbing and will leave your stomach quickly, spiking your hunger pangs at 2 or 3am and storing fat in your fat cells! In the evening, when our metabolism is slowing down, insulin is not needed like we would need for working and activity during the day hours. In the evening when our metabolism slows down, the best kinds of food to eat is a small snack of high protein and quality fat that will ensure a steady supply of amino acids through the night to help keep our brain from waking up our body.

This is the thing… like slow and steady exercise causes our metabolism to burn fat, a slow digesting protein will also burn fat. Because our metabolism never goes to sleep, give it a small amount of calories, 200 or less from healthy proteins, low-glycemic carbs and healthy fats that fuel muscle growth and support fat loss. It’s like exercising while you sleep! Having this knowledge can help you start the next day with success, energized and mentally alert. These are just a few suggestions from a list of about 30 “little” meals that I have listed in The nofad Weight Loss program:

  • A can of tuna in olive oil (only 100 calories); or tuna/salmon in water and add your own oil/mayo and fixings

  • Plain full fat yogurt with a fresh fruit or berries (lowest in carbs and glycemic index)

  • Almonds, pecans or pistachios (¼ cup is a serving size)

  • Cottage cheese, a milk protein that coats the stomach, taking several hours to digest; add 1-2 tsp organic flaxseed oil

  • Avocado and tomato, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings. Half a medium size avocado is only 160 calories and with a tomato and oil, it will come close to 200 calories

  • A slower digesting meat is white chicken (breast) or turkey rather than red meat. A small amount will go a long way

  • Nut butter, 1 rounded tablespoon will be enough to feel full; eat with an apple for an extra digestive aid and sprinkle Himalayan salt / cinnamon over all

  • Caprese Salad: thick slice mozzarella cheese, slice of tomato, balsamic vinegar drizzled on top

  • Deviled eggs (2 plain eggs are about 150 calories): 1 tsp mayo or flaxseed oil and a condiment like relish, onion, celery

      “Success starts the night before” ~gerri gatto~