Nothing, if you don’t mind turning into a Gremlin.
Alright, if you weren’t raised watching The Gremlins during the holidays, you won’t get that one. I’ll spare you the explanation, but you owe yourself some quality Gremlins time before next December. It’s that important.
If you believe that something magical happens at 6:00 PM every evening, where food eaten after that time “converts to fat,” or just doesn’t digest, you may continue to believe what you wish. However, that is not science. Your food and body have no idea what time of day it is. Otherwise, we’d all be trouble when traveling. When would we eat?
This advice is doled out as a means to control your calorie intake, especially if you’re still trying to lose the Christmas cookies you ate in ’84. (Funny, that’s the year Gremlins came out.) Trainers know that if they can convince you of a rule where everything you eat after work is bad, you’ll cut out a chunk of the highest calorie foods you consume all day.
Eating at night is usually the time of day when to suffer the worst cravings, due to hormonal drops. This is often just a signal that we need to get some rest or we’re thirsty. I’ll give you a couple of tricks you can use at the end.
It’s not weakness. Most people get the munchies if they stay up late enough. There are many factors at play, include preexisting habits, but much of it is chemical. Your mood is related in the brain by hormones, like serotonin or dopamine.
Dopamine is the currency of mood, saved then spent quickly. Your brain dumps a ton of dopamine into the synapse every day, like when you get good news or you smile.
By the end of your day, most of your dopamine is spent. The best way for your body to make more is via sleep. If you choose not to sleep, you may find yourself craving – not a light salad. It’s time for Little Debbie, Doritos or Cracker Jacks.
The best choice you can make is to go to bed. If you can knock out, you won’t care about food once you’re asleep.
Obviously, if you’re actually underfed because you had a busy day, eat something light. But, if you know you’ve had all food in your plan, the best move is nigh-night-time.
Skip this, then you’ll be more tired the following day. You’ll slowly have bigger swings in your cravings at night, breaking into your snack cupboard.
If you’re not trying to gain weight, you may find that not going to bed early enough is hurting your goals. You might not lose the weight that’s been bothering you. This isn’t the end of the world, but failing to make progress could kill your motivation.
Despite the fact that you’ll likely crave brownies, Count Chocula, or pop tarts, try one of these alternatives if you can.
Drink Water. Many times, cravings are as much about hydration levels as anything. Careful you don’t drink so much you lose sleep hitting the bathroom all night, but get down as much as a tall glass.
Let it sit for twenty minutes to see if you’re still hungry. Many times that’s enough. It shouldn’t need to be said, but Cabernet is not a substitute. Nor is Whisky. Put down that Coors Light.
Eat Protein. You will likely be craving sugar, fat or a healthy combo of both. Some crave salty things. Most of these pathways lead to food choices that wear high-calorie labels. If you’ve already tried water, try an egg or two, a piece of chicken, or even some bacon. [Some=2 slices]
The fat in the meat should satisfy you pretty quickly. The amino acid chains should digest slowly, giving you more time to relax before bed.
Freeze Fruit. If you must have something sweet, then you and I are on the same craving page. I keep small containers of cubed tropical fruit in my freezer.
Mango freezes like sorbet. Pineapple is yummy, but grapes have the best texture. For those of us with hand-to-mouth issues, this idea works well.
Enjoy Jello. This doesn’t work for everybody. You can eat a ton of jello with little impact on your calorie intake. Eat the sugar-free version, but similar to the fruit idea, you have to prepare this in advance.
Even instant Jello takes hours to set.
There’s nothing wrong with eating at night, so long you plan for it. If you are a regular snacker but have fitness goals that don’t afford you to eat whatever you want whenever you want, then give these ideas a spin.