Why You Crave Late-Night Snacks

February 24, 2014

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The clock strikes midnight, and your feet, on autopilot, walk to the fridge. We’ve all done it, but regularly poking your nose in the fridge late at night could be weighing you down.

Why You Do It

A study published in the journal Obesity found your body’s internal clock increases your cravings for sweet and salty foods at night. When food was scarce, this helped humans survive and store energy, but today we have an endless amount of food, which is a slippery slope when you’re trying to lose weight. The researchers found our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, causes us to feel least hungry at 8 a.m. and most hungry at 8 p.m.

And if your idea of winding down is turning on the TV or surfing the Web, you may be feeding those late-night snack cravings. Artificial lights from your TV, Smartphone, computer, and iPad signal your body to stay awake longer. The longer you are awake, the more likely you are to reach for high-calorie foods. Moreover, research shows sleep deprivation can cause you to crave unhealthy foods during the day. Getting a quality, seven to eight hours of shuteye per night will not only help you lose weight, but it can improve your overall quality of health.

How to Control It

First and foremost, listen to your body. These late-night cravings may just be a bad habit you’ve fallen into. If you associate the TV with a snack, for example, you’re going to reach for one when it time to sit on the couch and relax. Ask yourself these questions: Is your stomach growling or signaling you to eat? Have you eaten a meal in the last four hours? If your body isn’t telling you to eat and you have eaten a meal in the past four hours, you probably don’t need an extra snack.

However, you shouldn’t deprive yourself of food if you’re genuinely hungry. Stay away from junk, and satisfy your late-night craving with a piece of fruit or something high in protein, like peanut butter and apples to hold you over through the night.

You may also want to think about your eating habits during the day. Many people consume the majority of their calories in the second part of the day, but when it comes to weight loss, you’re better off eating the majority of your calories in the earlier hours as opposed to the afternoon and evening. Many people skip breakfast, but starting your day with a hearty meal can help ward off those late-night trips to the fridge and help you reach your goals faster. At first, it may be difficult to get into the habit of eating in the morning, but once your body adjusts, you won’t want to go a day without it.

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