As a master fitness professional and nutrition coach, I find that many people struggle with snacking at night. Two common reasons are habit and boredom while the third is a bit more insidious. Controlling hunger is a huge key to successfully managing your weight and many people set themselves up to fail at night by under eating earlier in the day.
In my nutrition coaching sessions with new clients, the percentage that skip breakfast is typically high which often results in struggling with snacks and in particular sweets at night. Those who skip breakfast inevitably seem to make less healthy choices later in the day with the culmination being to consume the largest portion of their calories in the evening.
Technically you can under eat for the day in terms of calories consumed and still end up gaining weight because you take in more than your body can handle in a short period of time. Ever hear the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
Well, there’s a lot of truth to that statement and the benefits of starting with a solid breakfast are numerous according to oatsovernight.com:
- Having a solid breakfast will reduce your overall appetite throughout the day
- You will ultimately eat less throughout the day
- You will have better memory and improved cognitive performance (better thinking)
- You can help prevent type 2 diabetes
- You will weigh less with a lower risk of obesity and have healthier BMI measurements
So if the first step in managing hunger is to have a good breakfast followed by a solid lunch and dinner with 1-2 snacks strategically placed in between, then what about late night snacking?
A Blast From the Past…
Back in the late 90’s I used to have a small protein shake literally right before bed. It wasn’t really a shake but simply a couple of scoops of whey protein with just enough water to mix it completely. I would place this mixture in the freezer for a half hour or so and it would harden up to form a nice little frozen treat just before bed.
Fast forward to the present and I’ve learned that a better solution for a night time protein treat is not a fast absorbing whey but rather a super slow absorbing casein. Another key to managing hunger is regulating blood sugar and casein is a much better choice because of how slowly is breaks down in the body.
Ever hear of the suggestion that you shouldn’t eat after a certain time at night? That is about as random as saying everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day. I don’t believe in cookie cutter solution or random absolutes. How much you drink and what time you eat should be tied to the individual needs of your body and overall life schedule.
Last year I didn’t get off work until 8PM having my dinner immediately afterwards. I would finish my meal by 8:30 at the latest and be in bed no later than 9:45. That’s only 1 hour and 15 minutes between finishing my dinner and turning out the lights and my body handled that schedule very well. I maintain single digit bodyfat year round so clearly eating after 6PM wasn’t hurting me.
No what you eat and how much does make a difference, but there’s nothing wrong with having a balanced and appropriately portioned meal later in the evening. Further, including a late night snack can make perfect sense if it fits your daily schedule and life style, and matches up with your overall daily caloric requirements. In the case of the casein, it might actually help with your sleep because of better blood sugar regulation during the night.
The 135 Calorie Solution
One scoop of Optimum Gold Standard Casein has approximately 120 calories, 24 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fat, and 1 gram of fiber. It comes in a variety of flavors with my favorite being chocolate peanut butter. Mix this with a 1/2 cup of sugar-free almond milk plus a couple of packets of sweetener and you get a super thick protein pudding that taste pretty amazing.
Now you can eat as described above or as is my preference, throw the mixture in the freezer for an hour and then enjoy as a frozen treat. For something so simple to make, it really is good and way better nutritionally than indulging in ice cream or some other high calorie snack food.
I now have numerous clients that have added my casein protein pudding to their nutrition strategy with great success. These are clients who used to struggle with unhealthy evening snacks who now rely on the casein as a much better alternative.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
If you currently struggle with snacking a night, take a look at your eating habits earlier in the day. For my clients, having breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner is pretty much the bare minimum standard. Ask yourself, “Am I eating because I’m bored, out of habit, or am I truly hungry”?
Only you can honestly answer these questions and then take the needed action. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an evening snack if it’s healthy and compliments your body’s daily energy requirements. If you’re struggling in this area, I encourage you to reach out for help from a registered dietician or certified nutrition coach. Life is too short to struggle with food and help from a qualified professional could make all the difference.
Best of luck in your journey.