To eat or not to eat, that is the question that bounces back and forth in your brain like a Ping-Pong ball right before turning in for the night. While you may have eaten a delicious piece of rosemary-grilled chicken, coconut butter smeared sweet potatoes and a hefty portion of steamed green beans for dinner that left you stuffed, you’re once again in the mood to chow down. But at the same time you wonder, if you do, will you risk gaining weight?
The answer truly depends on your own situation. If you’re an active individual, eating a healthy balance of unprocessed foods within your calorie allotment, then eating a pre-bedtime snack could be ideal for you. It could actually help stabilize your blood sugar levels during your nightly fast and improve your sleep quality.
Blood sugar levels refers to the glucose that is transported through your bloodstream to supply energy to all the cells in your body from the carbohydrates you eat. Our bodies regulate blood sugar so it’s not too high or too low by secreting various hormones. Having too high blood sugar puts you at risk for diabetes and having too low blood sugar puts you at risk for hypoglycemia, a condition that leaves you shaky, dizzy and lethargic. In order to keep your blood sugar balanced eating the right foods in the right balance is paramount.
Noshing on a glazed doughnut will not encourage your blood sugar to stabilize, instead it will cause it to skyrocket before plummeting quickly. So if you snack on this sugar-filled treat before bedtime, you will most likely endure a restless night due to the wild sugar swings and will wake up in the morning feeling fatigued and sluggish, with no energy to face the day.
The good news is that you can still indulge in some food before bed as long as the snack is a balance of complex carbohydrates, high quality protein and a little healthy fat. The key word is snack. Portion size is still important and calories still do count. If you eat too much, in addition to the blood sugar problems, simply having a distended stomach could keep you awake as well.
What does a good evening snack actually look like? Think a small portion of full fat Greek yogurt with some berries or an apple with some almonds or a banana with peanut butter or even simply a handful of trail mix. The combinations are endless as long as you mix some carbohydrates for fiber (think fruits and vegetables), protein (nuts are good because they are easy and contain all the food groups, but turkey or chicken roll ups are fine too) and little bit of fat (avocados and nuts are great).
So put down that Ping-Pong mallet in your mind, and grab yourself a snack before you hit the sack. If done right, it will not lead to weight gain and might even help improve your sleep.