Late Night Habits
Weight Loss Tips for Night Owls
If you want to lose weight, don't do things late. Don't eat late at night and don't exercise after a certain hour. Anyone who does is doomed to fail in their fitness quest. That's been the commonly shared wisdom of countless weight loss programs.
At first glance, the advice seems reasonable. But upon closer inspection, the statements aren't supported by the facts. Start with the idea that you should avoid exercising late at night. There are two reasons people are told to avoid it.
Exercise Reason #1 - Time Management
In study after study, people who exercise first thing in the morning are more consistent with their workouts than people who put it off till later. The reason is simple. When you do it first, there's little that can happen to throw you off schedule. If you regularly workout later in the day, it's easier to skip it if a meeting runs long, or you're behind on some work, or you're feeling a little tired.
I've seen it in my business. People who train with me early are far more consistent than those who train later. That doesn't mean it's impossible to stay on schedule if you workout later, just that it doesn't happen as often. All you need to know is this. As long as you regularly make your fitness appointments, it doesn't matter if they happen at eight in the morning or eight in the evening.
Exercise Reason #2 - It Makes Falling Asleep More Difficult
That certainly seems reasonable. A vigorous exercise program dramatically increases blood flow and calorie burning. But recent surveys don't seem to support the idea that it keeps you up.
Clinical studies have shown for years that people who exercise at some point during the day, sleep better than those who don't. But for the first time, researchers now believe exercising late at night isn't going to interfere with your sleep. In the National Sleep Foundation 2013 poll, they found that people who exercised within four hours of going to bed, reported sleeping just as well as the people who exercised earlier in the day.
Working out late didn't make it harder for people to fall asleep, and it didn't harm the quality of the sleep they experienced. That means if the only time you can consistently get a workout in is late at night, you should go for it.
Now consider the late-night eater. There are two reasons weight loss programs tell us to avoid it.
Eating Reason #1 - Mindless Munching
Stopping eating early is a way to cut down on mindless munching. For anyone who isn't careful about their food, it's a valid strategy.
On a typical day, if you're eating three, balanced, moderate calorie meals, you shouldn't have a problem maintaining a healthy weight. But what happens after you finish your last meal?
Many people sit down on the couch and turn on the television. Then the snacks come out. Before you know it, two, three or more hours have passed while you've been mindlessly eating. Unless you're carefully measuring out those snacks, it's easy to eat an extra 300 to 600 calories more than you need.
The issue though is the extra calories, not the fact you're eating after some special time. By setting a cutoff time, you're theoretically putting a stop to the late-night munchies.
Eating Reason #2 - Willpower Loss
Our ability to resist temptation slowly diminishes. When you wake up, you only have a limited amount of resolve. Turning away empty calories gets consistently harder as the day goes on, so if you're up late it's harder to stop after just a couple bites.
Making a food cutoff time sets up an absolute in your mind so you don't have to wrestle with the idea of "just getting a little something." You're done for the day, so you might as well go to bed.
As long as you monitor your food, you can eat right up until you go to bed. There's nothing magical about not eating after a certain hour of the day.
Eating late and working out late. Stay consistent, and both can be part of a healthy strategy for night owls.
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