It should come as no surprise that eating after 7pm isn’t optimal for your health. But why exactly is it so bad for us? Let’s break down the reasons why the nation’s top functional medicine practitioners are advising their patients to stop grazing by 7pm.
First of all, keeping food consumption between the hours of 8am and 7pm allows the body to take advantage of intermittent fasting. During a 12+ hour fast, your body will use stored fat as energy, which is a good thing. Additionally, the body has a long list of complicated processes that occur during sleep that help repair tissues, balance hormones and detoxify the organs. Requiring digestion by eating significant amounts of food right before bed interrupts the body’s ability to rest and heal properly. Late-night splurges also exacerbate conditions like acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
While there isn’t one set universal time that everyone should stop eating, it is a good idea to eat the last meal of the day with enough time to fully digest it before bed. Since studies show that the earlier your bedtime the better, it makes sense that the last meal of the day should be consumed no later than 7pm. Additionally, studies show that for folks hoping to lose weight, making the midday meal the largest of the day can help. During the day, the body’s energy needs are higher, which makes calories more likely to be used as energy, rather than stored as fat.
An additional factor to consider in favor of eliminating nighttime snacking is that it is far easier to make less-than-healthy choices at night. Consuming salty, high-fat and/or sugar-filled foods at night not only interrupts our body’s ability to fully rest and repair during sleep, but it also provides little to no nutritional benefit aside from simply upping the body’s caloric intake for the day. If you absolutely must have a pre-bed snack, choose one high in healthy fats and fiber. A spoonful of nut butter on whole-grain toast or magnesium-rich kiwifruit are both great choices.
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