With a keto diet, there are no shortcuts – the only way to make it work for your body is to stick to the rules. So it’s natural to wonder if it’s okay to eat before bed on a keto diet, and how eating after 8pm can affect ketosis.
The answer is: no, you don’t have to avoid eating before bed on keto. What you eat – and more specifically, the macronutrient ratio of your meals – is far more important than when you eat. However, there are a few extra factors in the equation, and the way your body personally responds is always going to be a big part of it. Many people also choose to combine a ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting, which does introduce additional rules about when you should be eating.
Let’s dig into it.
Does the Timing of Meals Matter on a Keto Diet?
Not really. It really won’t matter when you eat your meals as long as you’re on a calorie count and macronutrient split that aligns your goals – whether that be weight loss, weight retention, or weight gain.
A typical ketogenic macronutrient split would look something like 60-75% fat, 25-35% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. So given a typical 2000 calorie diet, you will need around 135-165 grams of fat, 125-175 grams of protein, and 20-50 grams of carbohydrates a day.
As long as these are met, you can eat whenever you like during the day. However, for those combining keto and intermittent fasting, there will be restrictions around when to eat. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting may help achieve ketosis more quickly and may lead to greater weight loss. On the other hand, many people find intermittent fasting counterproductive or even detrimental to their health. As with most things keto, each person will have different results and a different formula that works best for them.
Should You Avoid Eating Before Bed on Keto?
Keto or not, there are no studies that reliably prove eating before bed directly causes any physiological evils. So for many people, eating soon before sleeping probably won’t cause any considerable negative effects by itself.
However, for some people, eating before bed can exacerbate another medical condition or lead to disrupted sleep. It all depends on your eating habits and how your body responds.
For people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eating before bed—especially in amounts that make you feel full—is highly inadvisable. It’s recommended that people with GERD eat their last meal of the day around 3 hours before bed, as well as avoiding caffeine, spices and alcohol at night.
Another reason to avoid eating before bed is because it can lead to unhealthy habits. Many people feel peckish late at night, especially if they’re relaxing in front of the TV, and may give in to eating another snack (or meal!) even if they’ve eaten enough for the day. Often, these unscheduled snacks include sweets such as ice cream or chocolate. Of course, if they aren’t accounted for in your meal plan, these are extra calories that will definitely have an impact on weight loss (if this is your goal).
If this is you, try to resist the temptation – but I know that’s not as simple as it sounds! This may even be a reason to eat your last proper meal closer to or at the time you usually have your nighttime snacks so you feel more satiated. Particularly if what you’re craving is high in sugar and carbs, late-night snacking can really hamper your body’s ability to stay in ketosis.
Another potential benefit of eating late at night is that it can help people fall asleep faster. This is because eating—particularly proteins or carbohydrates—helps your body produce more serotonin, a hormone that’s involved in your body’s natural sleep cycle. Serotonin can also boost the quality of your sleep and help you feel more rested in the morning.
As you can see, there are both potential benefits and disadvantages to eating late at night. It’s different for everybody, so it’s crucial to listen to your body when deciding if late-night eating is a concern for you.
Should You Avoid Eating Carbs at Night on Keto?
On keto, you should generally minimize the amount of carbs you consume, but the time you consume them doesn’t have a big impact on ketosis. As long as you don’t go past the daily carbohydrate threshold of the macronutrient split you’re following, when you choose to eat the few carbs you do eat has little to no bearing.
However, if you have trouble sleeping, you can try eating more of your daily carbs in the evening to help you fall asleep. Eating carbs causes stress hormones like cortisol to decrease and promotes the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone that’s also involved in restorative sleep.
Of course, carbs are exactly what we want to avoid on a ketogenic diet, and this contradiction leads us right into another big keto topic.
Keto Insomnia: How to Avoid It
Unfortunately, one of the potential negative side-effects of a keto diet is keto insomnia. A ketogenic diet can lead to trouble falling or staying asleep, especially when someone’s just started reducing their carb intake.
There are a few reasons why starting keto may cause insomnia for some people. Most commonly, it can be part of what is called ‘keto flu’. These are flu-like symptoms that arise once your body starts adapting to taking in more fats and fewer carbs. Keto flu can include stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea, intense cravings, inability to focus, and of course, insomnia. But even if you don’t feel the effects of any other ‘keto flu’ symptoms, you may still experience keto insomnia. One cause may be that your body feels energetic (and thus very much awake) after consuming a lot of fat, particularly in the evening.
If you’re affected by keto insomnia, there are a few strategies that can help. Try to avoid eating for three or four hours before bedtime. This can be a helpful strategy for those who feel especially energetic on a keto diet. Another reason you may be feeling too alert at night is if you exercise in the evening. If this is the case, try exercising earlier in the day and see if it has any impact on your sleep patterns. You can also try eating the majority of your daily carbs in the 3-4 hours before bed to help you sleep more soundly.
Another cause of keto insomnia may be that you’re implementing keto too suddenly. If you’re just starting out, try to gradually decrease your carb intake instead of changing your diet overnight. So, for example, if you plan to only eat 25g of carbs a day on keto, try reducing it to 50g for a few days. Then work your way down until you reach your long-term macros.
Healthy Keto Bedtime Snacks
If you’re the type to want to snack on something late at night, fear not. Here are some healthy low-carb recipes that can fit easily into most people’s keto macronutrient splits.
I absolutely love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter! This sweet-and-salty treat should satisfy your late-night cravings without the overload of carbs. In fact, these make great ‘fat bombs’ if you need to sneak more healthy fats into your diet. A powdered sugar free sweetener works best for this recipe, as using the granulated versions can give the chocolate a gritty texture.
This delicious chocolate cake recipe uses sun flour which is extremely low in carbs but high in protein, helping you get a good night’s rest. A serving of this recipe only has 3g of carbs, and you can use your choice of keto-friendly sweetener. Add a little Sukrin caramel syrup to the icing for an even more decadent flavour.
If you’re a savoury snacker, this is the recipe for you! You can easily make an entire jar of almond butter for around half the price of commercially available brands. This recipe uses MCT oil, a very healthy fat, which makes this homemade nut butter easy to spread. Spread on keto-friendly crackers or toasted low carb wraps for a fantastic evening snack.
Is It Ok to Go to Bed Hungry?
It’s generally not recommended to go to bed feeling really hungry. Not only will most people find it difficult to fall asleep, it can also throw off your metabolism and you may end up binge-eating when you wake up the next day. Even if you’re intermittent fasting, you shouldn’t be painfully hungry, and you might need to make some changes to your meal schedule. If eating very late at night doesn’t suit your body, try adding more healthy fats to your evening meal so that you don’t feel hungry by the time you hit the sack.
Is Insomnia a Sign of Ketosis?
Yes, it can be. There are many signs that your body is shifting into ketosis, including sleeping troubles and other symptoms of ‘keto flu’. Most people report that it goes away after a few days of low carb eating, if not a few weeks. Try some of the tips we’ve mentioned and if the insomnia is so bad that it’s debilitating, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.
Disclaimer: This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical or nutritional advice and does not take into consideration your individual health needs. Ketolicious Kreations does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information.
Always check the product label regarding allergens and other health needs. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website is strictly at your own risk. For any medical advice regarding diet and nutrition, or before changing your diet drastically, always consult a doctor or nutritionist.