The habit of eating at night is common for a large number of people. And, unfortunately, it is not at all harmless. The cause of the nighttime hunger can be either disturbances in the body, or external factors, or stress. Let's start with health. If your lifestyle has not changed lately, you are emotionally stable, adhere to your usual diet, but suddenly, for the wrong reason, you began to eat at night, perhaps the reason lies in hormonal imbalance. Hunger at night is triggered by decreased production of leptin and melatonin at night and increased synthesis of cortisol in the evening. If you cannot cope with your nighttime hunger for 2-3 months, it is best to see your doctor. Such a failure in the diet can be fraught with the development of gastrointestinal diseases, weight gain and a decrease in stress resistance. In this case, it is important to eliminate the failure in the production of hormones. An endocrinologist or nutritionist will select the treatment that suits you.
But if external factors, individual characteristics of the body or an emotional state become the culprit of nocturnal zhora, you can work with it, including independently.
First reason: infrequent meals
There can be a lot of excuses: there is no time at work, it is difficult to find healthy food in a cafe, it is impossible to carry a full meal with you … But if you want to stop eating at night, you need to find an opportunity to eat fractionally. Why is it so important? If you eat less than three times a day, then the appetite control system is disrupted. The body increases the production of a special hormone ─ ghrelin, and by the evening this is expressed in an uncontrollable feeling of hunger. Here willpower will not help you in any way, because it is impossible to reduce the concentration of the hormone with its help.
- You should eat at least 3 times a day if you are relatively healthy and do not have problems with excess weight. WHO recommends 4-5 meals a day: three main meals and two snacks. The calorie content of each should not exceed 300 kcal. It is desirable that at least three meals combine proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
- It is not so difficult to organize food in the office. If there is a cafe nearby, it is quite possible to choose something suitable meat (chicken, lean pork), fish, vegetable salad (take without sauce) or vegetable side dish in it within the framework of the calorie content of one meal. You can also bring lunch with you - it doesn't have to be the first, second and compote. An alternative would be the right sandwich on whole grain bread with fish or baked lean meats, vegetables, and a low-fat guacamole-type sauce. For a snack, take a handful of nuts, cottage cheese with herbs and tomatoes, raw vegetables cut into strips with nut butter. Fruits are not the best choice for a snack: they only whet the appetite, and are best eaten for dessert after dinner.
Second reason: lack of appetite in the morning
In the morning you limit yourself to a cup of coffee, but towards the evening your appetite is played to the fullest? This is due to the peculiarities of your biorhythms, to which the feeling of hunger is subordinated - in different people it occurs a different number of times and at different times during the day. In your case, it will be quite difficult to maintain normal weight, because it is not easy to deal with your nature. But there is also a way out of this situation.
- Be sure to eat in the evening. Your body needs both the building blocks of new cells and energy, so your dinner should be satisfying enough. What could it be? Any lean meat or fish, garnish with durum wheat pasta, vegetable salad or stew of non-starchy vegetables, mushrooms or legumes - all these products can be eaten after 4 pm.
- Eat in the morning ─ eat at least something. These can be light and not very satisfying dishes - for example, green or cabbage salad, ayran or low-fat cottage cheese with herbs and cucumber, a handful of berries with a small amount of nuts or coconut cream.
Reason three: stressful situation
Increased emotional stress is always associated with the release of large amounts of cortisol. If stress lasts a long time, or you regularly experience overloads of the nervous system, the fluctuations of this hormone conceived by nature are disrupted (normally it should rise slightly in the morning and decrease in the evening). In a state of stress, cortisol reaches its maximum concentration precisely in the afternoon, closer to night. What does this lead to? To an increase in the production of insulin, which brings down glucose in the blood - hence the ravenous appetite that occurs in the evening and at night.
- Learn to reduce stress in a way that's right for you. Everyone has their own: someone helps music, someone contemplation of nature, someone meditation and breathing exercises, and someone creativity. A universal way to reduce stress, including situational stress, is movement. If you get nervous, do a few squats or push-ups, and walk at an average pace. Exercise burns cortisol great!
- Do not forget that during mental stress vitamins and minerals are consumed with a vengeance. It is good in case of emotional stress to additionally take magnesium or B vitamins. Do not forget to consult with your doctor first. Be sure to take in omega-3 fatty acids - they increase the sensitivity of cells to cortisol, and this, in turn, reduces its production. Phytopreparations (valerian, motherwort), herbal teas (chamomile, mint), which help fight anxiety, are suitable.
What to eat at night (if you really want to)
First of all, food should not provoke a rise in blood glucose and the release of insulin - it should be meals with a low content of simple carbohydrates, with a low glycemic index. In no case should you eat fruits at night: they just provide the very same "carbohydrate swing" ─ a quick jump in sugar level and its rapid fall, after which you will want to eat again. So, a list of foods that you can eat before bed without harm to your figure and health - these foods will give you a feeling of satiety and calming, but at the same time will not overload the digestive tract.
- Small sandwich on whole grain bread with red fish and salad leaves
- Low-fat cottage cheese with herbs and tomatoes
- Chicken egg white without salt
- Fried chickpeas with spices
- Vegetable strips (carrots, peppers, celery) with sauce (guacamole, salsa)
- Chicken breast or lean beef slices
- Quinoa pudding with coconut milk
- Turkey and avocado lettuce rolls
Photo: Getty Images
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