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Best Foods To Eat At Night To Lose Weight While You Sleep
BY AMANDA BERRY
March 20th 2019
People are always looking for quick and easy ways to shed pounds and get into better shape. This is why fad diets were created, but they are rarely effective. If only it was as easy as losing weight overnight and waking up with the body you’ve always dreamed of.
But that’s not possible, right?
Not quite, but our bodies do burn fat and calories while we sleep.
So, maybe we can use this to our advantage when trying to lose weight. Are there certain things you can eat or drink before bed to help boost this process?
This article has everything you need to know about how to lose weight in your sleep and the best foods to help you do this.
How To Lose Weight Whilst Sleeping
We know that exercise is important for burning calories, but did you know that your body continues to burn through them while you sleep?
Digesting food, repairing cells, maintaining body temperature, and even dreaming – these are all vital functions that your body sustains while you sleep. You are using energy to perform these functions and, therefore, expending calories.
How many calories do you burn while sleeping?
This depends on various factors, including your weight, metabolic rate, and the quantity and quality of sleep you’re getting. On average, we could be burning between 300 and 500 calories just by getting a good night’s sleep.
That’s not a number to be sniffed at!
The amount of sleep you get could also determine what your body uses for the energy it requires. One weight loss study found that participants getting 8.5 hours of sleep per night burned more fat, while those getting only 5.5 hours burned more muscle, as well as losing less weight as a whole.
So, getting a good night’s sleep not only burns calories more effectively, it also helps you to shed fat rather than losing precious muscle mass.
Why sleep is so important to weight loss
Rest is just as important as activity when it comes to losing weight, maybe even more important. We burn more calories during the REM stage than any other stage of our sleep cycle. REM is the fourth stage of sleep and the deepest of them all.
If we don’t sleep for long enough or if we constantly wake up during the night, then we experience less REM sleep and feel less rested as a result of not getting enough deep sleep. The REM stage is also when we dream, and our brains need a lot of energy to function during this stage.
That’s right, dreams burn calories!
A lack of sleep could also affect our behaviour during the day. You’ll have less energy if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, meaning you might be less motivated to exercise or generally be active throughout the day.
It can also create cravings for unhealthy foods and larger portions of food. This is because the hormones leptin and ghrelin, the ones that regulate appetite and satiation, are affected by our sleep cycles.
When we don’t get enough sleep, the body produces less leptin – the hormone that tells us when we’re full – and more ghrelin – the one that tells us when we’re hungry. So, you’re more likely to feel hungry and crave larger portions during the day after not getting adequate sleep.
It also comes down to your cortisol levels, aka, the stress hormone. Your body’s cortisol levels are raised by sleep deprivation, and this can also increase your appetite. You’re likely to crave foods that’ll give you a boost of serotonin, things like chocolate and other sweet treats. What’s more, your body becomes less effective at breaking down sugar while you’re stressed, causing your blood sugar levels to spike. This can continue the cycle of energy crashes and cravings for sweet foods, also prompting your body to store more fat due to increased insulin levels.
Going to bed on an empty stomach
There are plenty of “fat loss rules” that are spouted and hotly debated – rules like “no carbs after 5pm” or “no calories after 8pm”. But are there actually any downsides of eating late in the evening? As we’ve said already, your body is still working on digestion while you sleep, so eating at night should not be a major cause of weight gain. The only downside of eating too much food late at night is that it could disrupt your sleep.
Consuming lots of sugar or caffeine at night might make it more difficult to fall asleep, while eating fatty, greasy meals could keep you up with problems like heartburn. As long as what you eat at night doesn’t disrupt your sleep pattern, then there’s no reason to starve yourself before bed.
What about the advantages or disadvantages of going to bed hungry?
You might find it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night because your body and mind are preoccupied with your hunger. You might also wake up craving a bigger breakfast or unhealthy foods, and your appetite and cravings might be increased throughout the day.
However, many people swear by the process of intermittent fasting to help them lose weight. This involves restricting your calorie consumption to a specific time period during the day, between 10am and 8pm, for example. Stopping eating early in the evening could help you follow an intermittent fasting schedule.
Foods To Eat At Night Before Bed
What is the best food to eat at night to lose weight? Getting plenty of foods rich in certain components in our diet, especially before bed, can make it easier when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies. It is produced at night as a way of signalling to the body that it should wind down in time for sleep. Melatonin also occurs naturally in some foods, while other foods promote the production of melatonin.
Including these in your diet could make it easier for you to fall asleep at night:
- Tart Cherries
Tryptophan is found in a variety of meats, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. It is an amino acid that helps to increase serotonin levels in the body, and serotonin is a precursor of melatonin. So, tryptophan = more serotonin, and more serotonin = more melatonin.
Here are some great sources of tryptophan in foods:
Magnesium is a mineral that doesn’t occur naturally in the body. This means we rely on our diet, or supplements, to get enough magnesium. In relation to sleep, magnesium deficiency can lead to symptoms of insomnia and restless sleep, most likely due to its relationship with the neurotransmitter GABA.
For a magnesium-rich diet, try adding these foods to your plate:
- Leafy greens
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains
Which foods should you avoid before bed?
Now you know what foods can help you get a good night’s sleep and maximise your ability to lose weight while sleeping, let’s look at the foods to avoid.
Sugary foods – Sugar is a fast-release carbohydrate, meaning it gives you a rush of energy soon after you eat it. Eating too much sugar before bed could leave your body too energised to fall asleep.
Foods with high water content – Although apples, watermelon, and celery have lots of health benefits, they might not be the best choices before bed. Because of their water content, you could be up in the night desperate for the toilet, disrupting your sleep as a result.
Fatty foods – Greasy and fatty foods can lead to problems like heartburn and acid reflux, especially when eaten in large portions before bed, making it difficult to sleep.
Spicy foods – Similarly, really spicy foods can be a cause of indigestion and other digestive issues that might keep you up at night.
Cheese – Although we’ve mentioned cheese as a good source of tryptophan, it can also be detrimental to your sleep. You’ve probably heard about cheese causing nightmares. Well, there is some truth to it due to another amino acid, tyramine, which can increase your brain’s alertness.
Should you drink before bed?
It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, but drinking too late might leave you needing the toilet at night. If you want to enjoy restful sleep all night long, then it’s best not to consume too much liquid close to bedtime. It’s a good idea to stop drinking 90 minutes before you go to bed.
There are different drinks you can try that will help you get to sleep more easily and aid your overnight fat loss.
Here are a few:
Tart cherry juice
We mentioned tart cherries as a good source of melatonin, an important component in getting to sleep at night. So, why not mix it up and gulp down some tart cherry juice before bed? As well as the melatonin, it has lots of other health benefits thanks to being packed with antioxidants and vitamins.
Green tea, chamomile tea, jasmine tea – whatever your tea of choice, people swear by them for helping them get to sleep. They don’t have the caffeine found in regular tea, and the warmth is comforting, helping you to feel sleepy. Green tea is also thought to have metabolism-boosting effects that could increase your calorie burning through the night.
Warm beverages, in general, are thought to make us sleepy. Warm milk and hot chocolate are good options thanks to the tryptophan in milk, although we wouldn’t recommend it every night due to the sugar content. Chocolate milk can also be beneficial for sleep and weight loss. It’s thought to be the perfect drink for post-workout recovery due to its protein content. Just be aware of that lactose-free milk is a healthier choice.
What to avoid
You probably know the key players to avoid before bed, but let’s look at why they can be detrimental to your sleep and weight loss.
Alcohol can help you fall asleep more easily, but it also promotes more disruptive sleep and makes you less likely to reach REM sleep. This means fewer calories burned overnight and you’ll be left feeling groggy the next day. Try to avoid drinking alcohol at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
Obviously, coffee is high in caffeine. Drinking it too late in the day will leave you feeling more alert around bedtime, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Everyone’s caffeine tolerance is slightly different, but a good rule of thumb is to stop drinking coffee at around 2pm if you’re keeping a regular sleep pattern.
Like caffeine, high levels of sugar can increase your alertness levels and leave you feeling wide awake when it comes to bedtime. Cut out drinks that are high in added sugars from your evening routine to help you fall asleep while also cutting down on empty calories.
By combining food and drink that help you sleep better at night and offer other health benefits, like making you feel full and boosting your metabolism, you can maximise the number of calories you burn overnight.
Remember, the key to weight loss is making sure you are constantly in ‘calorie deficit’, allowing your body to expend useless fat.
A natural supplement like Leanbean includes ingredients to help you cut out sugar cravings throughout the day and before bed, so you can stay on track towards your fat loss goals.
- Nedeltcheva A et al. Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity (2010). Link.
- Taheri S et al. Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index (2004). Link.
- Chao A et al. Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight (2017). Link.
- Tello M. Stress, Intermittent fasting: Surprising update (2018). Link.
- Gottesmann C. GABA mechanisms and sleep. (2002). Link.