Something intense washes over my body at about 9:30 p.m. every single night — like clockwork. Whether I'm catching up on Criminal Minds, playing cards with a friend, or going for a run in my neighborhood, I get a sudden, strong craving for a bedtime snack. Some nights I opt for something healthy like carrots and hummus, and on others, I indulge all of my chocolate ice cream fantasies. But if you've ever eaten right before bed and then felt not so great afterward, you might be curious to know how eating late at night affects your body. Of course, what you eat and when you eat it is totally up to you and what works best for your body. But watching out for some of these negative side effects might be helpful if you aren't feeling so great after a late-night snack.
You might have heard of a lifestyle/way of eating called intermittent fasting, which sets aside long stretches of time during which a person doesn't eat, in order to give their body time to rest from having to consistently process food. In a similar way, eating late at night can also overwork your body. "A big issue with eating late is the fact that you make your body continue to digest and process food," Jamie Logie, a nutritionist and personal trainer, tells Elite Daily in an email. "It keeps your natural circadian rhythm from being engaged, as your body is constantly active when it should be naturally winding down for the day."
Sometimes moonlit snacking can leave your stomach gurgling long into the night, which is obviously less than ideal when you're trying to drift off. Enjoying a meal too close to bedtime can definitely lead to digestive issues, says Armen Ghazarians, CEO of Finish Fit, a personal training, nutrition, and bootcamp company. Eating late into the evening hours could cause acid reflux, Ghazarians tells Elite Daily, which is when the acid leaks from a full stomach into your esophagus, creating a burning sensation. Lying down makes it harder for your body to digest your meal properly, Ghazarians explains.
But a post-9 p.m. meal won't affect your body only at night; the effects can last well into the next day, too. "Eating too late can negatively impact appetite the following morning," says sports dietitian Kelsey Hampton, MS, CSSD, RDN, LD. "Not feeling hungry in the morning because of too much food, too late the night before, can lead someone to skip meals and snacks early in the day and overeat at night. And the cycle continues."
Of course, it's not always possible to eat at a time that makes sense for your body. Sometimes you can't get a dinner reservation until later in the evening, or your commute home takes way longer than usual. Whatever the case may be, according to Haley Hughes, a registered dietitian and owner of RDRx Nutrition, it's never a good idea to skip dinner altogether just because it's a bit late by the time you sit down to eat.
Instead, Hughes tells Elite Daily, try to choose dishes that will be gentle on your body and that won't interrupt your sleep too much. For those nights when time has gotten away from you and you just have to eat dinner a bit later, Hughes suggests opting for foods that are naturally rich in magnesium, which helps relax your muscles so you can fall asleep with ease. Fuel up on foods like tofu, beans, whole grains, nuts, and avocados, and you'll have plenty of magnesium to take on the night.
Whether you snack on some guac or make toast loaded with almond butter, choose some food that will hit the spot and keep your body running strong.