With all of the weight loss websites and magazines out there, you get hit with a lot of weight loss tips and advice. Some advice is good, some is bad. One of the most popular, and what I believe to be the worst pieces of advice, is to stop eating from 6pm until the next morning. There are many reasons that I believe this is bad advice, and can actually be detrimental to your weight loss and goals.
Make Muscle Retention a Priority
One rule that I think many people trying to lose weight have adopted is to eat smaller, frequent meals instead of three large meals. It is typically recommended that you eat every three hours to keep your metabolism up for fat burning. With this tip, most people would go at least twelve hours without food! You wouldn’t do that during the day, so why would you do that overnight?
It isn’t good for your metabolism, and it isn’t good for your muscles. Even if you aren’t bodybuilding, you want to lose fat — not muscle. And what about the people that go to the gym after work and don’t get home until after 7:00pm? Are they not supposed to eat?
Your Body Doesn’t Shut Down at Night
I think that the biggest thing with weight loss is staying within your calorie and macronutrient goals. If your goal is to eat 1600 calories a day, It doesn’t matter what time of the day you are eating them. Your body’s metabolism doesn’t just shut down at 6:00pm and turn any food eaten into fat. Even when you are sleeping, your body is still burning calories.
At the end of the day it still comes down to calories in vs. calories out. So, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less calories than you burn, not eat less calories before 6:00pm than you burn. Additionally, I am a strong believer in listening to your body. Assuming that you eat healthy during the day and are hydrated, if you are feeling hungry, there is probably a reason. You are feeling hungry because your body needs food.
Food Composition is More Important
With that being said, I do believe that WHAT you are eating is important. Unless you just exercised or haven’t had enough during the day, you really don’t need many carbs at this time. Carbs are mainly used as high-intensity fuel, and if you are about to go to bed, you really don’t need to use that kind of energy.
It is best to get some kind of protein; cottage cheese and yogurt are great options because they contain casein protein which digests slowly. Basically, you want to eat something that is slow digesting so that it is released into the body throughout the night instead of all at once.
If all of that isn’t enough to convince you, I have found that I sleep much better when I don’t go to bed hungry. Good sleep = better muscle recovery, healthier eating patterns throughout the day, and more successful weight loss. The tip that you shouldn’t eat after 6:00pm is really just a myth. For weight loss you need to pay attention to your body and watch your calories. Listening to your body and eating a healthy snack before bed is GOOD for weight loss, not the opposite.