How many meals did you eat yesterday?
Wrong! However, you answered the above question, chances are that you actually ate far more frequently than you recall. The majority of us now pack several mini-meals into each day, according to a recent study at The Salk Institute. The longer we stay up; the more calories we consume.
The scientists speculated that the best way to cut down on calorie intake may be simply to get more sleep, so they asked people who ate over the course of 14 hours each day to cut their grazing times to no more than 11 hours a day, and to sleep more of the time. After 16 weeks, subjects lost an average of 3.5 percent of their excess body weight—just by going to bed earlier.
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #1
Schedule tea time
“There is something about the ritual of sitting down to a soothing cup of tea that tells your brain to slow down and relax,” says Falamas. “Some of the best teas for sleep are chamomile, peppermint, lavender and valerian, which actually does have some sedative properties.”
Eat This, Not That! tip: Certain teas also have magical weight-loss properties, from dimming your hunger hormones to upping your calorie burn to—literally—melting the fat that’s stored in your fat cells
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #2
Try your sleep switch
Don’t count sheep, eat lamb! (Or better yet, a bit of turkey.) Tryptophan, an amino acid found in most meats, has demonstrated powerful sleep-inducing effects. A recent study among insomniacs found that just ¼ gram—about what you’ll find in a skinless chicken drumstick or three ounces of lean turkey meat—was enough to significantly increase hours of deep sleep. And that can translate into easy weight loss.
Eat This, Not That! tip: “Any tryptophan-containing food, which includes nuts, chicken, fish, lentils, and eggs, can help usher in sleepyhead syndrome,” says Julia Falamas, director of programming and operations at Epic Hybrid Training fitness studio. “If you’re the type who can’t sleep on an empty stomach, a healthy source of fat like avocado or nut butters can help stave off hunger, while providing restorative properties,” she adds.
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #3
Eat whole grains at lunch
You know to avoid big meals, coffee, colas and alcohol before bed, but did you know that it’s best to eat your complex carbohydrates at lunchtime, not with dinner? “Serotonin converts to melatonin in your stage 3 REM sleep, and serotonin is sourced from whole-grain complex carbohydrates. So you don’t need to have carbs before bed to sleep, just have them at some point through the day,” says Cat Smiley, owner of Whistler Fitness Vacations, a weight-loss retreat for women.
Eat This, Not That! tip: Also, to meet your daily fiber goal, “about 20 grams of insoluble fiber is important to enable you to sleep, so aim to eat that daily, and you’ll ensure you can convert enough serotonin to sleep well.” That’s about two pieces of whole grain sprouted bread—avocado toast beckons! —or a cup of brown rice
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #4
If you eat at night, keep it small
While you shouldn’t go to bed starving (that presents its own sleepy time problems), you also shouldn’t hit the sack completely stuffed. When you eat a large meal before bed, your body is working to digest it long into the night — and if your body is still worked up, so are you. The later you fall asleep, the less rest you’ll get, and you’ll wake up feeling groggy and more likely to reach for calorie-dense items.
Eat This, Not That! tip: Instead of eating a monster meal for dinner, try to keep portions about the same as your breakfast and lunch, especially if you eat dinner on the later side. “You want to eat your last meal at least an hour or two before going to bed,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN. Want the foolproof, sure-fire way to flatten your belly?
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #5
Better yet, set strict kitchen hours
Nighttime fasting—aka closing the kitchen early—may help you lose more weight, even if you eat more food throughout the day, according to a study in the journal Cell Metabolism. Researchers put groups of mice on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for 100 days. Half of them were allowed to nibble throughout the night and day on a healthy, controlled diet, while the others only had access to food for eight hours, but could eat whatever they wanted. The result of the 16-hour food ban? The fasting mice stayed lean, while the mice who noshed ’round the clock became obese—even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories!
Eat This, Not That! tip: Experiment with closing the kitchen at 8pm and skipping breakfast.
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #6
Shake things up
Having a protein shake before hitting the sack may boost your metabolism, according to one Florida State University study. Researchers found that men who consumed an evening snack that included 30 grams of protein had a higher resting metabolic rate the next morning than when eating nothing. Protein is more thermogenic than carbs or fat, meaning your body burns more calories digesting it.
Eat This, Not That! tip: Use vegan protein—recommended in the bestselling Zero Belly Diet—which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloating that comes from whey.
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #7
Make a mint
Certain scents can make your mouth water, and others can actually suppress your appetite. One study published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopedics Medicine found that people who sniffed peppermint every two hours lost an average of 5 pounds a month! Banana, green apple, and vanilla had similar effects.
Eat This, Not That! tip: Consider burning a minty candle until you head to bed to fill the room with slimming smells. If you don’t want to bother with blowing out candles before you turn down the covers, try adding a few drops of peppermint oil to your pillow.
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #8
Throw out the night light
Exposure to light at night doesn’t just interrupt your chances of a great night’s sleep, it may also result in weight gain according to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Study subjects who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms.
Eat This, Not That! tip: That leads us to our next sleep-slimming trick….
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #9
Skip the chocolate
Don’t get us wrong; we love chocolate. In fact, any bar that contains at least 70% cacao is one of our favorite low-sugar snacks or desserts because of its high concentration of antioxidants and stress-busting abilities. Unfortunately, if eaten too late that chocolate could be the reason you can’t fall asleep. Dark chocolate contains caffeine, which can prevent your body from shutting down when you want it to if you’re sensitive to the compound.
Eat This, Not That! tip: Chocolate bars have varying amounts of caffeine, but an average two-ounce, 70 percent dark chocolate bar contains around 79 milligrams. For reference, an eight-ounce cup of coffee contains around 145 milligrams
SLEEP-SLIMMING TRICK #10
Take a hot shower
If you normally bathe in the A.M., listen up. “A hot shower is great for ensuring a good night’s sleep because it can help relieve tension and relax sore muscles. Additionally, it can increase the level of oxytocin—a “love” hormone released by your brain—which can be very soothing,” says Falamas. The heat from the shower also gives your body temperature a lift, resulting in a quick drop in temp when you get out and towel off, a dip that helps relax your entire system. A hot bath will also have the same effect.
Eat This, Not That! tip: A shower takes just minutes.