You probably think I'm going to frown upon eating at night. Nope! Instead I recommend it. In fact if you do it right you will wake up much more refreshed and a much happier person with more energy throughout the day. It's what you eat, in the right combinations, and then in the right timing that make all the difference.
Humans are naturally nocturnal eaters. For thousands of years we were hunters and gathers during the day. We didn't eat much during the daytime as we gathered and hunted. At night we put all that we collected and caught together as a feast for the family, tribe, community and everyone ate well. The meal was balanced and organic since the chemicals in today's foods such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers were not present. All of those contain MSG in them which causes nervous issues as well as cancer. Those chemicals also cause elevated estrogen levels which suppress Growth Hormone and Testosterone. That's not very good. So always eat organic whenever you can. The cost is really not that different any more.
Ok so now that we have established that humans have it in their genes to be nocturnal eaters there's no need to fear or feel guilty for your late night cravings. Instead embrace them and simply eat the right foods in the right combinations. It's what we eat and when we eat it that truly matters and makes a huge difference.
In fact indigenous people in South America, Australia, and Africa still eat this same way even today. They don't have the cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol as the Western World does. Of course they have other issues because they're all inbred, but that's another article topic altogether for another time.
I do not subscribe to the eating of 5-6 small meals per day. When you do that you increase insulin levels and when insulin is up you are storing fat. Growth Hormone and Glucagon must be up in order to burn fat. That mainly happens when you are not eating. Studies have shown that it takes roughly 72 hours of not eating before your body begins to use muscle as fuel. So there should be no fear of losing muscle and withering away. It just won't happen.
The 5-6 meal per day notion came about with the Bodybuilder style of eating. Approximately 1% of the world are bodybuilders so the rest of us 99%ers need not eat like them or exercise like them. Bodybuilders are athletes and they have different goals than most everyone else. You wouldn't go out and eat as a marathon runner does getting ready for a race. If people did there would be an even more obesity and health epidemic than we have now. Think about it this way- if eating frequent meals worked then why is everyone fat and unhealthy? It's because it doesn't work. The human body doesn't need to eat that way and is not programmed to eat that way.
When we eat or don't eat we are working with 2 main nervous systems: Sympathetic and Para-Sympathetic. Sympathetic (aka fight or flight): When exercising body energy is focused on skeletal muscles. Basically shuts down digestion. Parasympathetic (aka feed or breed): After a meal body focuses on digestion and absorption of nutrients. Upon vigorous exercise your body is trying to void the stomach of its contents so it can focus on your musculoskeletal system. Your body prefers to have one system dominant at a time. That's why you're mother and grandmother always told you to not go swimming after you eat. The 2 components of your nervous system are "competing" and you may cramp/drown.
So during the day when we don't eat we engage the Sympathetic Nervous System(SNS). When that happens our GH is high, our testosterone is elevated, our insulin is low, our glucagon is elevated, and all that causes us to be much more alert, energized, vigorous, and in a fat burning environment. As soon as we eat enough to disrupt that the Para-Sympathetic Nervous System engages and we begin slowing down due to the blood needed for digestion. Our body may feel sluggish and not as alert. Our vigor has been drained and the fat burning slowed down to potential fat storage. This is why if we eat our main balanced meal at night then we will be able to sleep much, much better and feeling sluggish won't matter since we are going to be sleeping anyway. We regenerate and build about 75% of our muscle while we sleep each night. That is one reason why sleep is so vital. We can't really store protein, but we can build muscle so protein is not generally needed during the day, but only at night- with one exception. The exception being a post workout recovery meal if you're exercising in the morning or afternoon. Then you can have about 20-30g of protein and the same in simple carbs to return your body to an anabolic(muscle recovery) state out of a catabolic(muscle breakdown) state.
If you EVER feel hungry during the day drink water. If you think you've drank a lot already, but are still hungry drink some more. Most of the time when people think they are hungry they are actually thirsty, but are not used to recognizing that subtle feeling. If your mouth ever gets dry you are already dehydrated.
Get through the day and then eat your main meal at night. ALWAYS start with a big salad filled with as many colored veggies as you can. Then eat your protein, then good fats, and then sleep well. Do your absolute best not to eat very many grains.
What if you work third shift?
Not a problem, but for you then you will want to eat relative to what your "dinner" is. Then during the hours preceding either eat only small fruits and/or veggies or don't eat anything at all. In either case be sure to drink A LOT of water. So drink water to curve the cravings and any hunger pains. Then eat a balance of the right foods at night with good fats being your primary fuel source instead of starches and grains. Do that and you will never be healthier and more energized!
To sum it up in 3 sentences: During the day don't eat anything, but 2 pieces of fruit- no bigger than your fist- 4 hours apart and then at night eat a very well balanced meal. Drink half your weight in ounces of water daily. You will be very healthy, feel super energized and have a very lean body.
I will touch more on exactly what to eat in upcoming articles.
*Big thanks to Ori Hofmekler(author of the Warrior Diet) for his research into much of this.