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Late-Night No-No's

9 things you should never
eat or drink after 9 p.m.

9 Things You Should Never Eat Or Drink After 9 PM.

Your dreams should be sweet; your before-bed diet shouldn't. Here's what to avoid before hitting the sack, and what to snack on instead.

Regardless of whether you're focused on maximum fat loss and getting ripped or trying to pack on pounds of lean muscle mass, certain foods should always be avoided after 9 p.m. Remember, you're about to embark upon an eight-hour fast otherwise known as sleep.

So if you do make a big dietary blunder, your body has no chance to compensate by burning additional calories.

Repeat these mistakes habitually, and while you may dream of having an amazing physique, what's happening inside your metabolic and endocrine systems is more like a nightmare. These 'don't-go-there' choices will not only wreck your appearance but also jeopardize your health.

The good news is that it's okay to have a late-night snack before bed -- as long as you choose foods that will promote lean-tissue building and fat loss. And while we tell you what to avoid in the article below, we also offer more physique-friendly alternatives.

1
Milk

Lactose Is A Sugar And You Don't Want Large Amounts Hitting Your System Before Bed
Lactose is a sugar and you don't want large amounts hitting your system before bed.

While considered to be a relatively healthy source of protein and calcium, the problem with downing a glass of milk before bed is the lactose content that's found in it that will often keep many people up due to digestive issues.

If you're lactose intolerant, this is one beverage you'll definitely want to avoid.

What's more, lactose is a sugar and you don't want large amounts hitting your system before bed. If you're one of the three U.S. adults who are glucose intolerant, the resulting blood sugar crash could wake you in the middle of the night as your energy-starved brain screams, "Eat!"

What To Have Instead:

Mix up a lactose-free protein shake. This will still provide the creamy taste that you're probably looking for while being even higher in protein content than milk. So you can build muscle while sleeping soundly.

2
Pasta

Pasta Is One Of The More Calorie-Dense Carbohydrate Sources Around.
Pasta Is One Of The More Calorie-Dense Carbohydrate Sources Around.

Next up on our list of foods to avoid before bed is pasta. If you're in mass-gaining mode, consuming some carbohydrates before can help out. Put there are much better choices than insulin-spiking pasta before bed.

Those calories will be highly prone to settle around your waist. Pasta is one of the more calorie-dense carbohydrate sources around; you can easily consume 400 calories or more in a single pre-bed sitting.

Pasta does less damage earlier in the day -- for example, before or after your workout, when your body actually requires a much higher overall carbohydrate intake.

That's when your body is actually primed to use those carbohydrates to fuel your activity and replenish the high energy storage in the muscle cells. In this case, you're actually supporting your long-term goal.

What To Have Instead:

If you're craving pasta before bed, go with some spaghetti squash instead. It'll give the same taste and texture as pasta with just a fraction of the carbs.

3
Chocolate

If You're Sensitive To This Stimulant, Chocolate Could Rob You Of The Precious Sleep
If you're sensitive to this stimulant, chocolate could rob you of the precious sleep.

Chocolate isn't just higher in sugar and fat content than other late-night snacks. It also contains caffeine. If you're sensitive to this stimulant, chocolate could rob you of the precious sleep you need to allow your body to recover maximally from your hard workout sessions.

As a result, you won't make the progress you otherwise could. Those who don't sleep enough on a regular basis are much likelier to suffer from increased cortisol levels, which will actually encourage muscle tissue breakdown.

What To Have Instead:

Whip up your own high-protein chocolate brownie. Simply mix together one scoop of chocolate protein powder with one egg white and then place in the microwave for 90 seconds or so.

You'll have a protein-packed caffeine-free dessert that will kill any chocolate craving fast.

4
Pizza

With All Those Excess Fat Calories Sitting Around In The Blood, What You Have Is A Recipe For Fat Gain.
With all those excess fat calories sitting around in the blood, what you have is a recipe for fat gain.

Dreaming of Domino's? If so, you aren't alone. Pizza ranks as one of the most craved foods by dieters and those focused on muscle building alike.

But, if you are going to have a cheat meal and indulge in a slice or two, make sure to do it earlier in the day than 9 p.m. or after.

Pizza contains far too many calories to have this close to bedtime; what's worse, you'll get an extra does of both carbohydrates and a large amount of saturated fat which will just sit in your stomach as you lie awake in bed at night.

With insulin levels high from the carbohydrates that you've just consumed, and all those excess fat calories sitting around in the blood, what you have is a recipe for fat gain.

What To Have Instead:

Down a few hard-boiled eggs instead. You'll feed your body muscle-building protein without a ton of excess empty calories to go along with them.

5
Chili

While Chili Can Be Healthy When Made With The Right Mix Of Ingredients, Too Often, It's Not
While chili can be healthy when made with the right mix of ingredients, too often, it's not.

Think serving up a hearty bowl of chili before bed is a great way to top off your nutrition with an ample source of protein and slow-burning carbs before bed?

Think again. While chili can be healthy when made with the right mix of ingredients, too often, it's not. Making matters worse after 9 p.m, chili is spicy, and may end up causing heartburn, a buzz kill for sound slumber.

Especially if chili peppers went into preparing the recipe, this is one that you'll want to avoid. Chili peppers can also boost the metabolic rate. During the day, that's great; before bed, it could leave you lying awake, praying you could doze off to sleep.

What To Have Instead:

If you need something warm and comforting before bed, serve up a small bowl of vegetable soup with added shrimp tossed in. The shrimp will provide the protein that your body needs before the overnight fast, and the vegetable soup is a lower-calorie alternative that will keep fat from accumulating.

6
Large Volumes Of Meat

Protein Does Take A Lot Of Energy To Digest And Break Down
Protein Does Take A Lot Of Energy To Digest And Break Down.

One habit that some people get into is filling their pre-bed meal with plenty of protein.

The logic is sound: You know your body will need amino acids to repair and build muscle tissue over the next eight hours, and you're going to be sure you supply it.

You also know that protein has little impact on blood sugar levels, making it a good night time dietary selection.

While both of the above statements are definitely true, if you're taking this advice to heart and serving up a full 8 or 12 ounces of chicken as David Letterman is going through his top-10 list, rethink your game plan.

Some protein is definitely required before bed and a must for preserving your lean muscle and promoting a speedy recovery, but overdoing it at this time is just going to force the body into an extensive digestive process which could cause you to lie in bed awake.

Protein does take a lot of energy to digest and break down so if you want to be sure that you get a peaceful slumber, so aim to keep it between 20 and 50 grams total before bed, depending on your overall protein requirements.

What To Have Instead:

For best results, choose to fill those 20-to-50 grams up with turkey meat, which contain a sleep-promoting amino acid called tryptophan.

7
Chinese Food

If You Decide To Make A Late-Night Trip Down To Your Local Chinese Take-Out Place, You're Going To Be In For A Rough Night Ahead
If You Decide To Make A Late-Night Trip Down To Your Local Chinese Take-Out Place, You're Going To Be In For A Rough Night Ahead.

If you've got a hankering for ginger beef, and decide to make a late-night trip down to your local Chinese take-out place, you're going to be in for a rough night ahead.

This is yet another food that's important to avoid past 9 p.m. as the MSG found in it is going to stimulate the body in a similar manner as caffeine would, making it very difficult to fall asleep.

What's even worse, what you order will likely contain far too many carbs and fats to be part of a healthy diet plans. So your fortune cookie may read, "Soon your belly will be growing bigger."

What To Have Instead:

If you still crave Chinese food, order up a small serving of whatever you like -- but request it without sauces, to avoid MSG, and have it served with steamed vegetables instead of white rice to reduce the carb count.

Your body will thank you.

8
Celery

Celery Acts As A Diuretic In The Body, Meaning It Makes You Pee A Lot
Celery Acts As A Diuretic In The Body, Meaning It Makes You Pee A Lot.

If you're on a strict fat-loss diet, vegetables are likely the mainstay of your current diet plan. But that said, one particular vegetable that you'll definitely want to avoid before turning out the lights at night is celery.

Celery acts as a diuretic in the body, meaning it makes you pee a lot. Eat it before bed, and you may be running laps to the bathroom.

Since deep sleep releases a cascade of muscle-building and -repairing hormones, waking up repeatedly will limit your grains.

Surely those green stalks could keep you looking like a beanpole.

What To Have Instead:

Broccoli and cauliflower are full of healthy plant chemicals and low in carbohydrates, making them an ideal late-night snack.

They're also crunchy -- which may be why you were reaching for celery to begin with. These veggies scratch that itch, so to speak.

9
Fruit Juice

Finally, the last thing to avoid after 9 P.M. is fruit juice: orange juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice-pretty much you name it. These are all very acidic in the body and could cause heart burn in many susceptible individuals. Definitely something to avoid before bed!

This is probably a familiar refrain by now, but fruit juices contain lots of simples sugars, with little or no fiber to allow for a measured insulin release. Fruit juices will set up a nightmarish crash-and-spike blood sugar scenario during the night.

What To Have Instead:

Berries Rank Low On The Glycemic Index And Will Provide The Sweetness Needed To Kill Your Cravings
Berries Rank Low On The Glycemic Index And Will Provide The Sweetness Needed To Kill Your Cravings.

Opt for some fresh berries mixed with ½ cup of cottage cheese. Berries rank low on the glycemic index and will provide the sweetness needed to kill your cravings.

The cottage cheese will supply the slow digesting amino acids for your muscles to feast on during the overnight repair period.

References
  1. The Merck Manuals
  2. Kitahama, K. et al. (1986). Neonatal monosodium glutamine dosing alters the sleep-wake cycle of the mature rate. Neuroscience Letters. Vol. 67, Issue 2.

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About The Author

I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.

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romeolo888

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romeolo888

quite a useful article. thanks

Dec 3, 2011 4:02am | report
dame1223

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dame1223

Nice. I always try and have cottage cheese before bed.

Dec 20, 2011 6:25am | report
turkish1983

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turkish1983

good bit of info ... i try to have cottage cheese but man do i hate the taste lol

Dec 21, 2011 2:24pm | report
jerseycity201

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jerseycity201

great

Feb 11, 2012 12:11pm | report
JamesZA

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JamesZA

Useful article

Sep 18, 2012 12:14pm | report
Oasisman

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Oasisman

Enjoyable and useful read. Some good food choices there.

Jan 14, 2013 3:38pm | report
Devildog9212

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Devildog9212

This is a great help for me especially since I'm use to just eating some cookies and trash before bed to quench my hunger after dinner. Also gave a lot of facts I didn't know. Very helpful.

Mar 7, 2013 1:22pm | report
TheJediBrah

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TheJediBrah

My god this is terrible I hope no one takes this seriously

Apr 19, 2013 6:10am | report
Andrei93

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Andrei93

strong bro science, hope noone actually believes this...

Apr 19, 2013 7:41am | report
Grinners

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Grinners

No milk... References to slow digesting carbs and protein for recovering during the night? Not even once... Terrible article.

Apr 19, 2013 7:42am | report
tkelly260

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tkelly260

This article says not to eat after 9pm.. What time does this article assume one goes to sleep? Can someone clear this up for me and put this in terms of things not to eat before x hours of going to sleep, because I sleep 7am-4pm and usually do cardio around 8pm and lift 1-330am so my schedules a little astray from the usual..

Nov 4, 2013 4:12am | report
Showing 1 - 11 of 11 Comments

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