Only 16 percent of Americans age 15 and over participate in regular exercise and sports activities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After adding to this statistic that less than 32 percent of adults in the U.S. are at a healthy body weight, the need to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits becomes clearer. For many, long workdays mean that workouts and evening meals get scheduled close to bedtime.
When it comes to getting enough exercise and eating right, the timing of your workouts and meals is less important than putting the time in and making healthy food choices. If you can make time to spend 30 minutes on your bike before bedtime, for example, you get the same calorie-burning and fitness benefits from the workout as your neighbor who hits the trails at 6 a.m. The same principle applies to your meals – it's typically better to eat a healthy, calorie-conscious meal an hour before bedtime than to grab something processed, quick and high in calories at 5 p.m.
If exercising late in the day or eating before bed interferes with your sleep, you may want to reconsider your schedule. Not getting enough sleep may interfere with weight loss, even if you're exercising regularly and watching your caloric intake, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Exercise speeds up your metabolism and can increase your alertness, which might not be ideal just before bedtime. If your late-evening workouts are keeping you awake, try scheduling your workouts at least three hours before you turn in for the night.
Going to bed when you're full or hungry can also lead to sleeplessness. For this reason, it may be beneficial to plan an early evening meal and a light snack a few hours before bedtime. One tendency of late-night eaters is to consume more calorie-dense foods and more calories in general, whether due to distractions from the television or lack of planning. Although eating at night is not necessarily connected to unhealthy meal patterns or overeating, it's important to plan balanced meals and healthy snacks ahead of time.
Planning your workout and eating schedule is generally a matter of personal preference and convenience. However, if your schedule is flexible, it might be helpful for you to experiment a bit with your routine. You may find, for example, that working out first thing increases your energy throughout the morning or that eating a meal at 5 p.m. and a snack two hours before bedtime keeps you from being hungry during the night and helps you sleep well.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Sports and Exercise; May 2008
- Weight-Control Information Network: Overweight and Obesity Statistics
- National Sleep Foundation: Diet, Exercise and Sleep
- American Council on Exercise: Is it True That Eating After 8 p.m. Can Make You Gain Weight?
- American Dietetic Association: Will Eating After 8 p.m. Cause Weight Gain?