Q: I often wake up in the middle of the night with hunger pangs. My normal remedy is a bowl of oatmeal with low fat milk. Is this going to hamper my efforts to lose fat?
A: Not necessarily. Many people believe that eating anything at night will make you fat because you’re going to be lying in a catatonic state for hours afterwards and the energy has got nothing else to do. The truth of the matter is that when you’re sleeping, you’re body is actually doing quite a bit at the cellular level. Specifically, it is repairing and building muscle tissue.
So, if you’re hungry at night, then you should eat. After all, you probably won’t get back to sleep with a rumbling stomach. Perhaps, though, you could experiment with a small meal about 45 minutes before bedtime to prevent the early morning interruption to your sleep pattern.
Nighttime nutrition will sidetrack your muscle building efforts slightly as a result of the impact of digestion on sleep. Other than when you’re working out, the greatest spike in growth hormone occurs when you’re sleeping. The process of digestion antagonizes growth hormone secretion, which is not the best situation for muscle enhancement. Of course, the reason that you’re hungry at night may be that you’re not taking in enough calories during your day, which is also going to limit your muscle building potential.
From the above you can see that it is not ideal to eat during the night, not because it will make you fat, but because it will slow down your muscle building potential. I would suggest taking a close look at your calorie consumption during the day. Are you eating every three waking hours? Are you getting the right number of calories for your size? Are you following the 3:2:1 rule of macronutrient intake (3 times carbs, 2 time protein and 1 times fat)? If so, you shouldn’t be waking in the night with an empty stomach. If you must eat at night, though, a low Glycemic carb meal with a little added protein is the way to go – a high fiber cereal with a little milk fits the bill perfectly.
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