Diet Advice – How Long Before Bed Should I Stop Eating?


How long before bed should I stop eating? It is a very common question, and one that gets answered wrong most of the time. Answers that I have heard in the past are: ‘you shouldn’t eat anything after 6:00 pm’, ‘no carbs after dark’, ‘you don’t burn anything while you sleep so everything you eat is turned into fat’, ‘it decreases your metabolism’, ‘it keeps you up at night’, and so on.

Proper nutrition is needed all day, and the last meal of the day is no exception. You should already be eating every 2-4 hours in order to increase your metabolism and maintain your lean muscle tissue. Skipping meals is very detrimental to your metabolism, and your health and fitness goals. Whether you are trying to lose body fat or gain muscle mass, you simply can’t lose body fat skipping meals and you can’t put muscle on skipping meals.

So why would someone skip the last meal of the day? My guess is because it is what those crazy, low-calorie fad diets have told us to do. Those diets don’t work. You lose weight on them sure, but it’s unhealthy, and as soon as you go off the diet the weight comes pouring back on.

Skipping the last meal of the day is a great way to slow your metabolism down and put body fat on. Think about it. Let’s say you eat dinner about 6:00 PM, go to bed at 10:30 PM, wake up at 7:00 am and eat breakfast at about 7:30 am. That’s 13.5 hours since your last meal. Your body is starving! And most of the time when it starves the next time you feed it, you have a greater chance of converting what you eat into fat.

You still burn calories and fat while you sleep. But not from skipping the last meal of the day. Now burning of calories is not as great as when we are awake and moving around, but it still occurs. The most important factor for this is eating frequent meals throughout the day including before bed.

how-long-before-bed-stop-eating-1The last meal is not as important as breakfast or your post-workout meal, but it is just as important as all the other meals of the day. The problem lies is ‘what to eat before bed?’ Most people eat the wrong things and that’s where some of these myths have come from about eating before bed.

Obviously sugary foods are out, and should be out throughout the day anyway. Foods high in saturated and trans fats are out also. You want to focus on foods that have a slow digestibility and are healthy for you. So protein foods would be casein protein, cottage cheese, low-fat cheeses, whey protein, and natural peanut butter.

Healthy fats would be natural peanut butter, nuts, other natural nut butters, and seeds. For carbohydrates, the best choice would be green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, or kale. Other vegetables are also good, but do avoid potatoes. You can consume some complex carbohydrates like oats or whole-wheat products, but calories can add up quickly so watch the serving size.

The key to eating before bed is not overdoing it. You should never feel full after this meal, and you should drink plenty of water with it. The water will actually help fill you up some and ensure you don’t go to bed dehydrated.

How long before bed should you eat? It will vary from person to person, but anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes is a good rule of thumb. It will be a matter of preference really. Switch it around to see what works best for you.

How much should you eat? Again, this will differ from person to person. It all is a matter of your goals and how well you have managed your calories throughout the day. But general rule of thumb is that you want this meal to be one of your smallest in terms of calories.

The pre-bedtime meal is very important. It’s important to stay out of a catabolic state (muscle and tissue breakdown). It’s important to keep the metabolism running high. You do burn calories and fat while you sleep (not as much as when you are awake), but it won’t happen if you skip the last meal of the day. What will happen is your body goes into a catabolic state, and the next time you eat something your body will have a greater chance of storing it as fat. And that is the vicious cycle when you skip meals. Metabolism drops, lean muscle tissue drops and body fat increases.

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About Author

Jason Yun is a graduate of Ohio State University, where he earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Sports and Leisure Studies with an emphasis in fitness, coaching, and recreation. He first started in fitness in the bodybuilding arena in the early 1990's trying to follow in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger. See my profile page for more information!


  1. Michael Redbourn on

    “Think about it. Let’s say you eat dinner about 6:00 PM, go to bed at 10:30 PM, wake up at 7:00 am and eat breakfast at about 7:30 am. That’s 13.5 hours since your last meal”. That’s exactly why the first meal of the day is called, break-fast.

  2. You indicated that it is important to keep your metabolism running high as you sleep. I’ve been having sleep problems and have searched the Internet for information about solving the problem. One or two articles indicated that you don’t want to exercise close to bedtime because it will speed up your metabolism and may cause problems getting to sleep. So I question what you said above about keeping your metabolism running high as you sleep. I’ve also found on more than one website that only 15 minutes between your last meal and bed isn’t enough and 90 minutes or more is ideal. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just pointing out what I’ve found and has seemed to help me. It may be different in the situation you’re talking about since this is for people who eat small meals and exercise seriously.

    • Stephen – Thanks for your feedback. Since everyone reacts to exercise and eating differently, it really comes down to what works best for you. Some people always have a casein protein shake right before bed and are able to easily go to sleep while supplying slow release protein to their muscles to help them recover overnight. Other people can do a hard workout later at night and easily fall asleep. However, many others can’t do either of these and are much more sensitive. Another big factor is caffeine intake. If you’re drinking coffee or taking other stimulants later in the day (pre-workout supplements) then this can have a huge impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Whatever helps you get quality sleep is what you should stick with. It’s great to thoroughly research the issue but in the end, it comes down to what works for each individual person. Best of luck to you 🙂

  3. Eating every 2-4 hours to raise your metabolism is a myth. I’m an intermittent faster and know after doing countless hours of research that this just isn’t true. With that being said what are your thoughts about eating cottage cheese with peanut butter for a late night snack?

    • Hi IFer – Feel free to post your data for reference. For most people, eating every 2-3 hours throughout the day works best for keeping hunger at bay and for continually feeding quality nutrients to the muscles. Cottage cheese is a great source of casein protein (slow acting) which is ideal before bed. As long as the peanut butter is all-natural (no sugar added) then it should make a nice snack with healthy fats. If calories are a concern then you can opt for a product like PBfit (low-fat peanut butter powder) along with a little protein powder included in the mix to increase the protein content of the meal.

  4. Why do I skip the last meal of the day? Well, I have found in the past 2 years that the closer to bedtime I eat, the hungrier I get the next morning. For a graduate, I feel you should research more into why people skip dinner and then attempt to debunk or disprove their reasoning, versus just taking the easy way out. Secondly, it is not a fad if I have decided for the rest of my life to always eat dinner early enough, and if for some reason I find myself up too late from school and such, to only eat something super light or just munch on a banana. It’s a lifestyle change. I don’t doubt you know your stuff, but you don’t do enough explaining why eating your last meal early is bad.

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