Maybe you're interested in understanding how your body utilizes energy at night, or you might have a weight loss goal, or you might want to reduce the percentage of body fat you have to improve your overall heart health. Your reason for wanting to improve your body's ability to utilize fat stores overnight could be personalized for your own health goals.
These 5 tips focus on foods, meal routine, nutrients, and stress management which support burning fat while you sleep and also might have other health benefits such as:
- Stabilizing blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity
- Reducing overall body fat percentage
- Preserve lean body mass
- Improved quality and quantity of sleep
What Does Burning Fat Actually Mean?
For the majority of humans, the body utilizes easy to access glucose that is from consuming your last. Once this glucose from your meal is used, the body utilizes the glucose stored in the liver and muscle to fuel for another 4 hours. If you don’t consume another snack or meal, then the body switches the type of energy and processes to use adipose (aka fat cells) to provide the energy for all your body's functions.
Therefore to burn more fat during sleep, than getting to this period of adipose utilization for energy is key. Here are 5 tips to help you reach this fat burning phase during sleep.
Warning - this article talks about some topics that might be triggering for anyone recovering or currently experiencing an eating disorder. Please be mindful of how this content is influencing your thoughts, feelings, and actions. For support please visit NEDA.
There are so many benefits to including strength training into your workout routine. One of which is to increase your overall metabolism by increasing your muscle mass. Muscle cells require more calories to be maintained, by increasing your lean body mass, you increase your resting metabolic rate and also increase the energy you are expanding throughout your day. If your energy needs are higher due to an increase in muscle mass, you will burn more energy daily.
Lifting weights is a great muscle strength training exercise, however there are other ways to build muscle. Here are some examples of functional strength training exercises:
- Taking the stairs when available or using the stair stepper machine
- Going on a hike
- Simple push-ups, pull ups, chin ups
- Gardening, vacuuming, cleaning
Look into your routine and add foods, activities, healthy habits to improving your wellness routine. Your mindset can be more influential to how your body responds to actions than you might realize. Thinking of daily activities as opportunities to activate and build muscle might actually help change how your body reacts to these activities, helping you maximize your time and increase muscle mass.
Meal Timing Matters
There is no magical time to plan your meals. However, different overall meal patterns and nutrient distribution across the day can play a role in your metabolism overnight. Eating habits at night could be increasing your risk for developing a metabolic syndrome.
Plan your last meal at least ~1 hour before bedtime, ideally 2-3 hours before bed. Generally waiting at least 1 hour after eating to lay down is helpful for reducing acid reflux, and it gives you time to digest before laying down.
While eating does increase your metabolism as your body burns energy to digest the nutrients from your last meal, this also means your body will be utilizing glucose for energy over night. Since our goal is to utilize adipose for energy, allowing for 1-2 hours of digestion prior to sleep, can give you more time in the fat burning phase overnight. Tips to help you move up your last eating period:
- Start small, if you are currently eating dinner at 9pm, try to move up that meal time by 15 minutes. Does 8:45pm sound reasonable? Keep moving up the time to find the best time that works for your schedule.
- Set alarms for meal times to keep you on schedule
- Prep meal components ahead of time to reducing needed cooking time that might be delaying dinner meal time
If you already have your last big meal of the day a couple of hours before you go to sleep, but find it hard to compete with nightly cravings for dessert or snack, then this next time is for you.
If your day is not complete without something sweet, you're not alone! Most people associate dessert or something sweet with the end of a meal. Since we knew how closing your eating to your bedtime might be reducing the adipose overnight, then it might be time to reframe how we think of dessert.
Consuming a sweet treat that is high in refined sugar such as pastries, ice cream, candy, chocolate, can have an impact on your blood sugar overnight causing spikes and dips.
You don’t have to give up your sweet treat, just being strategic about what type of foods you are consuming near your bedtime can have a positive impact on your health. Try these strategies to find balance with your sweet tooth and health goals:
- Include your dessert with breakfast or lunch, changing when you are having your treat can reduce night cravings for sweets.
- Move dessert time up earlier to reduce impact on your blood sugar overnight
- Reducing the portion on your treat is a simple but impactful action
- Swap in fruit such as frozen berries or apple & cinnamon, fruit digest fast and will have a less of a long term impact on blood sugar overnight. Plus the benefits of fiber and antioxidants.
Get Sound Sleep
Did you know if you’re tossing, turning, waking up in the middle of the night, you are disturbing your sleep cycle and this could be impairing your weight loss goals? If you aren’t getting enough or deep sleep you could be impairing your body's ability to get into that fat burning phase. Once you have entered into the second half of your sleep cycle, REM stage, your metabolism increases, which means more energy is being burned. The longer you sleep with less disturbance, the more energy you are burning.
Natural ways to improve quality and duration of sleep include:
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep
- Creating a dark and cool environment to regulate body temperature
- Limiting caffeine consumption to 6 hours before bedtime
- Developing a healthy sleep hygiene
- Avoid using electronic devices at least 30 minutes, ideally 1 hour before bedtime
Eating close to bedtime can also impair the ability to fall asleep for some people, so this is another reason to plan your last meal/snack a few hours before bedtime. Also getting enough sleep can play an important role in regulating hunger and cravings the next day, trying to battle with cravings can make reaching your health goals even harder. Keep those cravings in check to help you reach your wellness goals.
If you are interested in learning about other factors and nutrients that might be playing a role in your sleep such as magnesium and calcium levels, check Vessel Health at-home wellness testing cards!
Meet your Protein Needs
Consuming adequate protein is important for maintaining your muscle mass, which we already discussed is important for increasing metabolism. Not meeting your protein needs throughout the day can result in a breakdown of lean body mass to access those important amino acids (building blocks of protein.) Your protein needs can be calculated based on your weight, however taking into consideration if you are super active or have health conditions that might increase your needs.
The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for women is 46g and for men 56g. If weight loss is one of your goals there is research to support that aiming for 25-30g of protein per meal can help with satiety levels and increased perception of fullness while being on a modest calorie deficit diet.
Check out this meal plan outline that provides about 25-30gram protein, check out this sample high protein breakfast menu:
Oatmeal (½ cup) made with Soy milk (½ cup) = 8.5g
Top with Greek Yogurt (3oz) = 9g
Sprinkle Hemp Seeds (1.5 T) = 5g
Drizzle Almond Butter (1.5 T) = 5g
Finish off with ¼ cup of mixed berries, for a breakfast bowl that contains ~27 grams of protein.
Time to Burn Fat While You Sleep
Following some of these tips around meal timing, improving quality of sleep, and increasing muscle mass might help you reach your body health goals. Those actions you take during the day have a lasting impact throughout the night. If you're looking for some feedback on how these actions could be impacting your overall wellness, look no further than Vessel Health wellness testing. You can track and measure progress from enacting these healthy habits.
Sydney Mulroy See all the author’s articles