There are many reasons potentially behind the evening snack-a-thon. Let’s have a look at a few!
We have done it for years, and we like it. Which in some ways can make an attempt to kick late night snacking more difficult.
So clever, those advertisers! Seeing the chocolate coated Magnum succulently snapped will drive your subconscious mind straight to the freezer. You want it. You need it.
Iron, magnesium, zinc vitamin C and B vitamins (among others) are integral in our energy and mood pathways, and deficiencies could lead to you begging for brownies. Raw cacao is a great source of magnesium, so if you are lacking (which many of us are!), your body thinks ‘CHOCOLATE!’. However most chocolate is packaged with detrimental highly processed sugars.
Blood sugar dysregulation
Overeating may leave you tired, and consequently reaching for sugary snacks
Many of us are victims to the tooth grind when feeling under the pump! So crunching on the crisp can offer a satisfying (if subconscious) de-stress activity. In addition, salt is commonly craved when the adrenal glands are being worked, due to a constant production of stress hormones.
It has been suggested that the post 8pm snack attack may be due to our ancestral survival need to store fat and ensure the overnight fast ahead – hence the sugar/starchy/salty junk food cravings. But in this ever-so-comfortable, protected from the elements, endless food supply day and age, these needs are likely not as necessary.2
Each of these underlying drives (and there are more!) behind snacking when not hungry at night can be addressed independently. Hopefully then, the desire for late night snacking will naturally subside.
But why should be care?
At the end of yet another manic day, the reward of couch and cookie time is understandable. But have you considered that what you eat may be more punishment than payment?
Late night eating has been linked with reduced hippocampus function – meaning the area of brain in charge of memory and learning is unhappy. The timing of food consumption may impact our innate body clocks, and late night snacking is thought to interrupt the formation of long-term memory.1
We must also consider we are not exerting much energy post 8pm – and excess energy is typically stored as fat. Hello, weight gain.
And with food’s impact on blood glucose – specifically the sweet, carby chow – you can encourage increased serum levels, well into the morning, which is not good news for those with or at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Finally, our organs do some serious repair work at night – particularly our liver and intestinal tract. We want – and need – these dudes to work efficiently.
To do so, we need to be sleeping properly. But often if the body is super busy breaking down foods we do not rest fully.
Not only are organ activity, rest and repair compromised, so is our energy the following day, and increased risk of heartburn. Boo.
When you just gotta
Whilst we will ideally feel content and preparing for slumber post dinner, sometimes it just ain’t enough.
You could distract yourself with other activities, or ensure the tempting pack of double-coat Tim Tams are not in the house (both legitimate strategies!). Or try a herbal tea! It mightn’t sound like it will cut the mustard, but give it a try. There are plenty of delicious blends to choose from, so find one you like.
However, here are some ideas for snacks to reach for, with focus on protein and fibre, for those days when you just gotta!
- Kale chips
- Roasted and spiced chickpeas
- Lightly toasted coconut chips
- Mixed raw nuts and seeds, or lightly toasted with tamari
- Coconut yoghurt, berries and cinnamon
- Sliced apple and 100% nut or seed butter (like almond or tahini)
- Carrot sticks (raw or lightly roasted) with hummus or cashew cream cheese
- Nut based treats, like Nutty Banana Bread Balls
- Egg on a cloud or eggs boiled and rolled in a delicious spice
If you want to snack, just don’t feel guilty when you do. Whilst ideally we are eating until 80% full, several hours before bed and blah, blah, blah, if you are going to snack away, just make sure you snack with joy!
By Angela Johnson (BHSc. Nut. Med.)
- Loh, DH, Jami, SA Flores, RE Truong, D Ghiani, CA O’Dell, TJ & Colwell, CS 2015, ‘Misaligned feeding impairs memories’, eLife, vol. 10, no. 4
- Scheer, FL, Morris, CJ, & Shea, SA 2013, ‘The internal circadian clock increases hunger and appetite in the evening independent of food intake and other behaviors’, Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 421-423.