I hear this every time some mainstream expert is telling people how to lose weight. The theory being that if you eat past 6:00 or 7:00pm that you won’t have time to “burn” off those calories because you’ll be going to bed soon. I’m going to tell you right now for most people this is actually going to create problems with their attempt at losing weight.
On the surface it seems to make sense, but if we actually look into this in a little more detail it’s actually creating two big issues.
When you have gone too long without eating your blood sugar levels will drop too low. To bring your blood sugar levels up your body will release a hormone called cortisol (this is your stress hormone), one of the things that it signals the body to do is a process called gluconeogenisis. It’s a really fancy scientific word that means your body will breakdown protein (this means muscle in your body) and converts it into carbohydrates because your body needs to raise blood sugar levels. This means that your body will actually begin breaking down muscle to give you energy when you go too long without eating.
What happens in most people when you don’t eat after 6:00pm your blood sugar levels usually plummet between 1:00 and 3:00am. So your body begins release cortisol to get some energy. The problem with this is that if you’re doing this consistently you’re going to begin losing muscle, which will actually cause your resting metabolism to decrease......which translates into weight loss coming to a quick halt.
How many people start off losing weight quickly, then hit a quick plateau? Often times this is a results of losing muscle mass and slowing the metabolism. A lot of the weight loss they experience isn’t even fat, a lot of it is often muscle. I’ve measured people’s percent body fat and have seen it not change despite the fact that they have lost 15-25 pounds. That means you’re losing equal amount of lean mass and fat, which is disaster for long term weight loss.
So you understand that your body releases cortisol when you go too long without eating, typically this usually happens between 1:00 and 3:00am as we discussed above. When your body releases the cortisol your brain is signalling that you are under stress, and this triggers your brain to wake you up. A large number of clients that come to see me wake up between 1:00 and 3:00am almost every single night and don’t know why. There are a number of potential causes, but typically once they start eating a balanced snack 1-2 hours before bed they stop waking up, because they are no longer getting this release of cortisol.
What to do?
Try to have a small snack 1-2 hours before bed. Some people even have to have it 30 minutes before bed, we all have different metabolisms. You will have to play around with the time to see what works with your body. Try to make sure that the snack has either a strong source of protein (meat) or a strong source of fats such as yogurt (not the low fat crap), nuts, or seeds. And you can have some veggies with this, such as some cucumber, peppers, celery, etc. Give this a try and pretty quickly you’ll notice you won’t be waking up in the middle of the night and you’ll be getting your weight loss back on track.
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