The hours between dinner and bedtime are our chance to unwind and prepare for the next day. Maybe you relax and watch TV, read a book, or catch up on emails. Many of us like to grab a snack too.
Although snacking isn’t necessarily an unhealthy habit, it’s really easy for snacking at night to disrupt your fitness goals and lead to weight gain. Furthermore, it’s a difficult habit to stop.
In this article, we’ll talk about the problems with snacking at night and some ways to either cut the habit completely or do it in a healthier way.
Why Is Snacking At Night A Problem?
Snacking at night isn’t always bad. There’s no magic time when calories are suddenly stored as fat, or your metabolism slows down dramatically. However, it’s still pretty easy for snacking at night to derail your fitness goals.
One reason is because a lot of the time, people find themselves raiding the pantry every night even though they’re not truly hungry. The urge to snack comes from other factors like boredom, being tired or stressed, or pure habit.
The next problem comes from the food you’re eating at night. It’s more common to eat sweets or other “junk food,” packed with sugar and empty calories than something healthy. It usually just comes down to convenience. It’s also common to snack mindlessly, which means portion control goes out the window.
All of these factors combined creates the perfect storm for blowing your calorie and macro goals. Over time, this will slow your progress with weight loss, building muscle and even your performance in the gym.
It all comes down to how your night time snack fits into your entire day. If you plan your day and choose snacks and portions that meet your macro and calorie goals, snacking at night isn’t a problem at all.
However if it’s difficult to curb cravings and control portions at night, it’s probably time to figure out the cause and break the habit.
Will I Lose Weight If I Stop Snacking At Night?
It’s definitely possible, but it depends on a few factors like metabolism, overall diet and activity. If snacking at night was adding a lot of calories to your day, it’s possible that you’ll meet the necessary calorie deficit to lose weight if you stop snacking.
However, if you stop snacking and compensate by eating more during the day, you may not achieve a big enough calorie deficit to notice weight loss right away. It’s important that you’re consistent with whatever changes you make over a long period of time and that you also keep your activity level consistent.
Remember that weight gain isn’t the only problem with snacking at night. It can affect your performance in the gym, your sleep, and your mood. So even if you don’t lose weight if you stop snacking at night, you may notice that you sleep better and experience less guilt and anxiety about your diet. You might even notice your workout performance improve.
How Do I Stop Nighttime Snacking?
The key to stop nighttime snacking is to figure out the cause of your snack habit. Then, you can address it head on and get back to your goals.
Here are 6 easy steps to help you stop snacking at night:
1. Eat regularly throughout the day
If you’re trying to lose weight, there’s a good chance you’re just not eating enough during the day. Most importantly, don’t skip meals. Work on meal planning to make sure you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack at regular times each day. That way, your metabolism is steady all day long and you’re not left hungry right before bedtime.
You might need to adjust your meal times too. If you typically stay up late at night, make sure you’re not eating dinner too early. Or, go ahead and plan that sack after dinner and have something healthy read to go.
2. Include balanced, high-protein snacks
A lot of the time, the urge to snack stems from not feeling satisfied. Getting enough protein will help with this, because it helps you stay full longer.
A high-protein snack like Naked Shake during the day is an easy way to get more protein without having to compromise taste for convenience. This shake packs 20 grams of protein with only around 120 calories. Just add to water and mix.
3. Be mindful about hunger vs. habit
Snacking at night is often associated with watching TV or another activity where you can kind of “zone out.” When you eat mindlessly, you’re a lot more likely to eat a much larger portion than you think and keep eating even when you’re not hungry.
Before you head to the pantry, think about why you want a snack in the first place. Are you truly hungry, or are you just feeling bored or tired? If you think you’re truly hungry, portion out your snack instead of sitting down with the entire container.
4. Get to bed at a decent time
Staying up too late causes problems for several reasons. First, you’re definitely going to get hungry if there’s a huge gap between dinner and bedtime. If you get hungry, you’re probably going to grab what is most convenient instead of something healthy.
Getting enough sleep is important too. If you’re going to bed late night after night and running on only a few hours of sleep, you’re more likely to experience cravings and snack mindlessly.
5. Find ways to de-stress
For many people, the urge to snack is emotional. And it’s common for those emotions to come out at night when you finally have a chance to settle down and unwind. If you’re finding yourself coping from a stressful day by snacking at night, try to find some other ways to relieve stress. You could try stretching, meditation, or going back to the last tip - getting plenty of sleep.
6. Keep a journal
If you’re still not sure what is causing you to snack at night or if snacking is really an issue for you, start keeping a journal. Write down everything you eat at night and how you’re feeling at the time.
This helps with mindfulness. You might not realize how much you’re actually eating at night until it’s all laid out for you. Writing out how you’re feeling and what you’re doing as you snack will help you identify trends and triggers with your eating habits too.
Snacking at night isn’t always bad. However, for many people it’s the door that opens to problematic habits like mindless eating and giving into unhealthy cravings.
The key to stop snacking at night is to figure out why you developed the habit in the first place. Whether it be due to habit, stress, lack of sleep, or not eating enough during the day, it’s a much easier problem to solve if you address your needs.