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Health and Fitness Tips

Nighttime Nibbling is it OK?

It's 10 o'clock and your stomach is rumbling. Do you tough it out and heed to the popular dictum of not eating at night, or answer the call of the fridge. That depends on your goals.

Many think that nighttime snacking is not good for you. Unfortunately, human biology is not black and white so the answer to nighttime snacking is a complex one. First, if you can't get in all your calories during the day and need an evening snack for that reason, then it is important to get those calories in, especially to allow for intense exercise and muscle-building. However, this will limit your muscle-building to some extent due to the influence that digestion has on sleep.

Obviously, when you eat, your body is revving up, not slowing down. This antagonizes the physiological processes that occur in deep sleep, particularly growth hormone secretion. The greatest spike in growth hormone secretion other than after exercise is during deep sleep. When you eat at bedtime, deep sleep is somewhat disturbed and growth hormone secretion isn't maximized, so maximum muscle growth may not occur. But neither will it occur without enough calories. So if you can eat earlier, it will meet both needs. As far as what to eat, the best combination is low-glycemic index carbohydrates with a little protein. This will feed you well without spiking your insulin levels just before bed, which would be more likely to lead to storing calories as fat. Milk is a great choice. High-fiber cereals will have a lower-glycemic index; all others are fairly high. Breads made with barley are also good choices in place of cereal.

So, is it bad to eat at night? No, but I have to qualify that with one statement: eating junky food at any time of the day is eating junky food, weather you eat it at noon or midnight. Obviously you have to eat decent food. You can eat a chicken breast and a salad before bed, as long as eating before bed doesn't interfere with your sleep. Also, for anyone looking to gain size, I'd say eating late at night is a good thing. If you are looking to lose fat, I'd recommend eating foods high in protein before bed.

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed