One of the biggest problems patients of mine have when we work with their nutrition is incessant night time hunger and how to stop food cravings. The good news is if you’re looking how to fix late night hunger cravings, it can be a very simple set of solutions.
In my opinion, nutrition should be timed with a goal in mind to get the best results, but this article will be written for those looking to be lean, high performance, healthy beings. If you have specific goals, they may require more specific answers. This is just a general overview of options of general populations.
Eat a bigger dinner
When you eat real food, you don’t have to worry much about limiting yourself. Many people stick with smaller portion sizes because this is what all of the fashion magazines and health experts claim. This is not necessary for general health when you’re eating a real food diet!
When loading up on massive amounts of vegetables and reasonable amount of animal product, it is certainly very hard to overdo it. If you’re trying to restrict food intentionally, change your meals and dinners to be allow yourself as much food as you want. This trick only works if you’re eating a whole foods, nutrient dense diet, however.
When you pack your (whole foods) meals in and eat enough of them, this should stop food cravings.
Eat a fattier dinner
Maybe you’re eating enough volume of food, but not the right kind of food. Depending on the composition of your diet, you may not be getting enough fat.
High protein or high carbohydrate meals can sometimes leave people feeling hungry shortly after due the relative speed of which these macronutrients are metabolized or their effect on blood sugar. Try balancing your meal out and making sure that you aren’t stocking up on just protein or carbohydrate.
It is important to remember that fat does not make you fat. Don’t fear this as many people do. All of your cells are lined with fat and many of the hormones your body secrete use fat as a precursor.
Fat makes you full and keeps you full for a long period of time. Often times when I eat high fat dinners, I am full far into the morning and will skip breakfast because I’m not hungry at all.
An easy way to add fat to your nightly meals is to make sure you’re using a fat to cook your vegetables in. Cooking your vegetables in fat also has the added benefit of making many of the nutrients more available to your body. Duck fat is a TPF favorite! Coconut oil or other animal fats can work as well.
Eat a small, fatty snack
If you like your dinners the way they are and feel like you are eating as much as you can but still have late night hunger cravings, no problem, just add an additional snack. It is wise here to keep them higher in fat to help you stay full for longer so you don’t wake up with any type of hunger.
Some options, for example, are 1T nut butter, 1T coconut oil, 1/2 avocado. Fattier chunks of meat can work as well as protein, even in small amounts, can be satiating. The more fat is with the protein, the slower it will absorb and the fuller you will get.
If you tolerate dairy, a few spoonfuls of full-fat yogurt (Siggi’s or Fage) can be helpful here as well. Remember that dairy can be a healthy option and you can source it appropriately.
It is generally pretty easy to overeat these foods so be careful. Start with a tablespoon or a few spoonfuls and wait a good 15-20 minutes and reassess if you are still having to stop food cravings.
Sometimes when you feel hungry, your body is actually dehydrated. After a long day, lack of water can add up and you don’t notice this until late in the night. Late night hunger cravings coming from dehydration can especially be the case if you are working out in addition to a full busy work day.
Try drinking a full glass or two of water, waiting 15 minutes, and seeing if you are still hungry.
If regular water is boring to you, then flavor it up. Use citrus, cucumber, herbs, tea, whatever to spice it up a little bit.
Adding a pinch of sea salt in your drink can actually help your body retain more water if you are dehydrated, which will help with this problem as well.
Rule out adrenal/gut dysbiosis problems
If you feel like you are especially hungry when you should be sleeping and that you are tired, but wired, then you may have other problems going on other than too little food or not enough hydration.
Adrenal dysfunction is one of the problems can present with these symptoms. Gut dysbiosis can also present with hunger, especially for sweets, after a large meal. If you’ve tried some of the action items above but still feel like there is more going on, it is time to dig a little deeper.
Working with a qualified functional medicine practitioner can help sift through these problems and distinguish the root cause to be able to treat it effectively. It is best to work with a professional here and not take Dr. Google’s advice too seriously.
How do you stop food cravings at night? Any tips or tricks for the rest of us? Let us know!