When You Eat Carbs Before Bed, This Is What Happens

You may have read dieting advice that recommends cutting out any carbohydrates before bed. Or maybe you read about how athletes should carb-load the night before a big race or a long run. Confused? Depending on your personal goals around fitness and weight loss, your metabolism, the type of carbohydrate that you're consuming, and how you eat for the rest of the day, eating carbs before bed can have different effects.

For someone trying to lose weight, eating simple carbs close to bedtime can make weight loss more difficult, but not because carbohydrates themselves are bad. It's largely because eating at bedtime often means over-eating. This can create a caloric surplus in your body, since you're more likely to opt for high-sugar, high-fat bedtime snacks or desserts (via the Mayo Clinic). As you sleep, your body goes into rest-and-recovery mode, so you're not able to make use of the carbohydrates as efficiently as you would if you were to eat them during the day around your workout, or when you're otherwise active. You may also struggle with some food-related gut discomfort, especially if you're prone to acid reflux or heartburn (via Amerisleep).

What should you eat before bed?

If you crave a bedtime snack most nights, that may be a sign that you're not eating enough throughout the day and your body is trying to tell you to catch up (via Medical News Today). Night eating can also be an issue with a psychological root. If you feel as though you can't not eat, you may want to speak to a professional (via Harvard Health Publishing). So if you're always snacking right before bed, do some detective work to figure out if there's a way you can avoid the need to eat right before you go to sleep.

Having a before-bed snack isn't necessarily a bad thing, though: Eating a form of complex carbohydrates, like a small bowl of oatmeal, with a small amount of fat and protein can help you fall asleep feeling satisfied while keeping your blood sugar stable. "A slice of whole-wheat toast with a smear of peanut butter is a good choice," registered dietitian Marisa Silver told LIVESTRONG. According to WebMD, the right carbs before bed may even help you fall asleep faster, so don't stress the occasional light snack before bed.