When we consistently eat late at night or right before bedtime, crazy things start happening to our bodies!
What kind of crazy am I talking about?
Well, first off, the research clearly shows the quality of our sleep totally gets thrown off.
Second, we become less insulin sensitive (that’s a bad thing), which makes us more likely to gain weight over time and even become more hypoglybitchy the next day!
Hy·po·gly·bitch·y /ˌhīpōɡlīˈbiCHē (noun): When your blood sugar is so out of whack that you act like a jerk to everyone around you. Also known as hangry!
The keyword for today’s newsletter is consistently, as in consistently eating late at night or right before bed. There’s nothing wrong with a few late meals here or there, but when it becomes the norm it starts to have a negative impact on our lives.
Today, we’re talking about why it’s important to do our best to eat in sync with our circadian rhythm and the optimal eating time frames based on when our bodies are best suited for digestion.
If you’re someone who struggles with eating right before bed, this newsletter and the tips featured in it are 100 percent for you!
Let’s jump in!
Why We’re Programmed to Eat with Our Circadian Rhythm
The world’s leading experts in circadian biology and fasting, Dr. Satchin Panda and Dr. Valter Longo, have found through years of research that human beings are biologically programmed to digest and absorb food best earlier in the day.
From a survival standpoint, this makes total sense. Early in the day, when the sun was up, our ancestors were hunting for food. It’s no coincidence this is when insulin sensitivity and secretion are at their peak—ready to digest, absorb, and store food whenever it was available (1)(2).
Nighttime, on the other hand, was best for rest and sleep. This is when insulin sensitivity and secretion are at their lowest because, from an evolutionary perspective, food was less available so the body could focus its energy on recovering.
Fast-forward to the present day, and we have access to food pretty much anytime we want it, which can cause problems with our blood sugar since insulin is still on our circadian rhythm.
Melatonin Inhibits Insulin Secretion
Our suprachiasmatic nucleus (the part of our brain that regulates our circadian rhythm) tells the pineal gland to start releasing melatonin when the sun goes down to get our bodies ready for sleep.
When melatonin binds to receptors on our pancreas, it tells our beta cells that it’s time for sleep, so they produce less insulin, which means our cells aren’t great at breaking down food at night.
This could explain the link between late-night eating and blood sugar imbalances, trouble losing weight, and type 2 diabetes (3)(4)(5).
But it’s not just melatonin that inhibits our ability to digest food at night; our digestive system is also on a circadian rhythm that makes it more difficult.
We Can’t Digest the Best While We Rest
Our digestive system is also designed to metabolize food best earlier in the day. The movement of stool through our gut and the production of saliva, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes all go down significantly while we’re asleep.
That’s why late-night eating can increase our risk of acid reflux, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and certain types of cancer (6). Over time, it puts stress on our digestive system and takes energy away from our immune system, which it then can’t use for DNA repair or killing zombie cells. It also makes it harder to enter deep, restorative REM sleep.
I notice this effect from wearing my WHOOP, a digital wearable that tracks my sleep, fitness, and performance. When I eat late at night, my recovery score is low the next day, which means my sleep wasn’t that great. When it happens every now and then, it’s not a problem, but chronic late-night eating and disrupted sleep can increase inflammation and our risk for chronic disease.
Circadian Eating and Chronic Disease Prevention
The good news is eating an earlier dinner (around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.) or stopping eating about three hours before bed can prevent disrupted sleep, support weight loss, and help prevent chronic disease (7)(8).
This beneficial effect could be related to increased immune function and metabolic flexibility or the ability to shift from burning carbs to burning fat for energy—something that happens when we prolong our fasting window to 12 hours or more (9).
It’s Not about Being Perfect!
Before we jump into my Try This protocol, I want to start by saying we’re all doing our best to adopt healthy lifestyle practices. It isn’t about being perfect: life happens.
What we can do is start being mindful of our eating habits and do our best to eat within the time frame that is best suited for our biology.
It might take a little planning, but it could be worth the change, especially if you’re struggling with weight loss, blood sugar imbalances, or acid reflux. My mom was dealing with some pretty awful acid reflux for a while, and moving up her eating window helped her improve dramatically.
By the way, shout out to Dr. Benjamin Asher who helped my mom reverse her acid reflux in three weeks using meal timing, dietary changes, and a few targeted supplements.
Before we jump into today’s protocol, I want to give some love to today’s sponsor, FOND.
Modern-day life has made convenience a priority over health, which is why I’m super thankful for companies like FOND that are making it possible to have both.
FOND brews ready-to-sip bone broth tonics the traditional way: slow-simmered for 18 hours in stainless steel kettles with organic, fresh herbs and pasture-raised bones. You can either sip their bone broth by itself or add it to your favorite recipes for a fresh, delicious, nutrient-packed burst of flavor.
Glycine, glutamine, and collagen are primarily responsible for the gut-healing properties of bone broth, and FOND tests to make sure theirs is high in all of them. FOND also does quality testing for heavy metals and harmful contaminants and has crafted certain varieties specifically with gut health and immunity in mind.
Lastly, I’m so fond of FOND because their products are packaged in glass jars, free of plastics, and contain zero powders or concentrates.
Right now, FOND is offering my Try This community 20% off their first purchase with the code DHRU20 at checkout. Just click this link and get the benefits of bone broth today!
Alright, let’s dive in!
Start small. If you’re a chronic late-night eater, don’t worry about making this change all at once. Start by moving your dinner up two or three hours once or twice a week and see how you feel, and gradually work on adding more days when you feel ready.
Practice time-restricted eating. Time-restricted eating is one of the best ways to eat with our circadian rhythm. If you are new to fasting, this is often where people start. It doesn’t require calorie restriction but instead focuses on limiting eating to an 8–12-hour window during the day. The research tends to use an 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. eating window, but pick a time frame that works best for you and your schedule, as long as you stop eating at least two-to-three hours before bed.
Don’t beat yourself up. Breaking bread with my family or friends is one of my favorite ways to celebrate, and sometimes that involves eating dinner later than normal. If that’s the case for you, too, don’t get down on yourself! One or two late-night dinners a week isn’t the worst thing in the world. In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons because I get to be present with my family and friends.
However, when I have more than a few back-to-back late-night dinners scheduled, I’ll typically make sure I eat a bigger breakfast and lunch with quality proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. This allows me to keep things lighter at dinner and still be present with my friends, avoid FOMO, and stay aligned with the principles of circadian eating for the majority of my week.
Eating with your circadian rhythm helps you stay in sync with your body’s natural metabolism, digestion, and immune system function. It’s important to eat with our circadian rhythms because late-night eating can catch up with us and cause health challenges.
But remember, our bodies are resilient as heck, so just because late-night eating poses risks doesn’t mean you can’t go out and live your life. Just try to be intentional about it and use the strategies I listed above.
With love and gratitude,