Going to bed hungry isn’t just a punishment your mom doled out; some people believe this trick is the key to shedding those unwanted pounds. Not skipping dinner necessarily, but cutting off your calories at a certain time of night. Although eating a diet rich in satiating fiber-filled and healthy fat-focused food shouldn’t leave you feeling deprived, those rumbles in your tummy can be inevitable, especially if you’ve just started on a new eating plan or worked out extra hard that day.
Some people swear by not eating after a certain time of night to lose weight. Afterall, going to sleep right after eating a big meal can impact digestion. But depriving yourself can also leave you feeling famished throughout the night, which can end up impacting your quality of sleep.
So is going to bed hungry really a worthwhile weight-loss habit, or can it do you more harm than good? We tapped diet and weight-loss experts who give us the low-down on whether or not you should ignore those nighttime hunger pangs.
You shouldn’t eat a huge meal right before bed
“Having a full stomach before bed can cause a spike in insulin and blood sugar, which can lead to weight gain,” Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios, says.
Lisa Davis, PhD, LDN agrees; this is why it’s not a good idea to have a big meal and then immediately go to bed. “Consuming a large late night meal… has been shown to increase the risk of obesity and cardiometabolic disease,” she explains.
Not only could going to bed stuffed make you pack on the pounds, but it could also interfere with digestion and your ability to have a good night’s sleep.
Going to bed hungry can keep insulin low
“When it comes to weight loss, going to bed a little bit hungry can help because it keeps hormones like insulin low, and that can help facilitate weight loss,” Davis says. But she reiterates that having a big dinner right before bed has the opposite effect.
But being hungry can backfire
“The problem with going to bed hungry is that it can interfere with a good night’s sleep,” White explains. “Studies show that lack of sleep is associated with weight gain because of increased hunger. The body wants the energy from food due to the lack of sleep.”
Overall: It’s better to be satisfied than hungry before bed
“I never suggest that people do anything while hungry, especially go to bed. It’s always best to have some feeling of satiety at most parts of your day, even at bedtime,” Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, says.
Not only will hunger pangs prevent you from getting a full night’s rest—which can lead to weight gain—but a small snack before bed can actually help boost weight-loss efforts.
“Some studies have shown that eating smaller, nutrient dense snacks around 150 calories does not affect your weight,” White explains. “Mixing exercise and a small, healthy snack before bed has been shown to promote weight loss.”
The best way to gauge whether or not you should eat something before bed is to rate your hunger on a scale from 1-10, explains Davis. If your hunger falls at a five or below, she suggests just having a glass of water and going to bed. If your hunger is a six or higher, she says you should nosh on a satisfying snack, something between 100 and 200 calories.