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  1. #1
    Registered User getactive's Avatar
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    Question Digestion at night time

    I've been reading a ton of arguments on the web about not eating late / for so many hours before going to bed.

    What are the facts about the parasympathetic nervous system and digestion thing? Fruits and unhealthy fermentation at night? Caveman diet good or bad in that respect?

    Does digestion speed up or slow down at night?

    My experience tells me that I shouldnt be eating that late, i.e. it takes forever to fall asleep, strange sounds from the stomach, .. Common sense also tells me that peristalsis is supported when one is in a vertical position.

    Anyone here familiar with the autonomous nervous system?
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    There is no reason not to 'eat then sleep' (not unless you have reflux).

    Digestion doesn't 'stop' when you sleep.

    In fact, there are a lot of processes in the body that help promote this (eating, especially certain types of food --> release of neurochemicals/ hormones --> makes you more sleepy and promotes rest)....

    It is, essentially, the main 'functions' of the parasympathetic branch of the ANS - "rest and digest" (major generalisation there).
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  3. #3
    All things in balance chosenone28's Avatar
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    Now if you have been diagnosed to have acid reflux (As I have been) then would eating a meal directly before bed, or drinking a protein shake when I wake up in the night cause me to experience real bad symptoms? I use to eat directly before bed and then have a shake If I woke up, but now I make sure to stop eating 1-2 hours before actually going to sleep and no longer have a shake if I wake up and I dont suffer from the reflux symptoms. I wish my doctor would have informed me that this could be a problem...
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    so is eating meat/cheese/green veggies ok? thats a pretty standard/good pre bed meal. or just casein and pb
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    I eat at LEAST 1000 calories in the time period between 1.5 hours before I got sleep and when I my teeth before going to sleep (serious, it is also my post workout meal). No problems whatsoever when sleeping. I'm kind of used to eating late though, but if you train your stomach you shouldn't have problems. I don't, just take a huge dump when I wake up.
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    Originally Posted by chosenone28 View Post
    Now if you have been diagnosed to have acid reflux (As I have been) then would eating a meal directly before bed, or drinking a protein shake when I wake up in the night cause me to experience real bad symptoms? I use to eat directly before bed and then have a shake If I woke up, but now I make sure to stop eating 1-2 hours before actually going to sleep and no longer have a shake if I wake up and I dont suffer from the reflux symptoms. I wish my doctor would have informed me that this could be a problem...
    It is usually an issue because if your distal oesophageal sphincter is WEAK, when you are sleeping, the contents of your stomach can easily 'leak' back into your oesophagus and cause you to get symptoms.

    If, however, you sleep upright (or prop yourself up on some pillows) the problem will decrease.

    Also - if you have severe reflux you should probably be on medication of some discription to help control things as well (eg: a losec? or even ant-acid tabs).

    Originally Posted by krogtaar View Post
    so is eating meat/cheese/green veggies ok? thats a pretty standard/good pre bed meal. or just casein and pb
    You can eat what ever you want. Oats, toast, cookies, vegetables, meat, fruit, cheese, protein powder, cereal, milk, cake, rice, eggs, cake (did I already mention cake ).

    As above, I wouldn't suggest something that is going to cause you discomfort (eg: large chilli meal or something that causes you to have reflux or digestive issues)... But if the meal 'sits well' with you - go for it. For 99% of the 'non-elite' and 'non-pathogenic' population (that is - most training individuals without issues such as hypoglycaemia, diabetes, and a few other things) - it doesn't matter what you put in this last meal.
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  7. #7
    Registered User getactive's Avatar
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    Question rest and ...

    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    There is no reason not to 'eat then sleep' (not unless you have reflux).

    Digestion doesn't 'stop' when you sleep.

    In fact, there are a lot of processes in the body that help promote this (eating, especially certain types of food --> release of neurochemicals/ hormones --> makes you more sleepy and promotes rest)....

    It is, essentially, the main 'functions' of the parasympathetic branch of the ANS - "rest and digest" (major generalisation there).
    Some say reflux is caused by going to bed with a full stomach, because this way gravity does not pull the fluids down, so they can flow into the esophagus easily. Especially when digestion has to be done at night time.
    Sleeping on the left side is reported to be beneficial. Check the anatomical location of the stomach.

    "Rest and digest" seems wrong to me because sleep is Rest and Regeneration, i.e. getting rid of the leftovers from the day, also in the colon and stomach (Bacteria, germs, food, ...)! If you eat late, you lose app. 4hrs of regeneration in this area which results in long-term damage.
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  8. #8
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    I agree with the reflux. I don't know how to explain that, but I can eat tons of calories before going to bed but things that are "split" (I don't know how to explain it better !) like rice, oats, couscous... are terrible for me. I can eat stuff that are "in one chunk", that's all. I had oatmeal with trail mix the other night and I had to go outside and take a walk because I would choke if going to sleep.

    Any explanations ?

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  9. #9
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    Originally Posted by getactive View Post
    Some say reflux is caused by going to bed with a full stomach, because this way gravity does not pull the fluids down, so they can flow into the esophagus easily. Especially when digestion has to be done at night time.
    Sleeping on the left side is reported to be beneficial. Check the anatomical location of the stomach.
    Question --> When you do a handstand (if you can).... Do you throw everything up? I imagine the answer is no.
    Why?
    Your oesophogeal sphincter is 'intact' and prevents the passive movement of material into the lower oesophagus.
    For most people this is what happens.... You 'seal' the top of the stomach.

    It is only in SOME people that this seal is malfunctioning (eg: those with weak sphincters - such as someone who is unconcious, someone who is pregnant, people who have hiatal hernias, smokers etc etc).

    With regards to the positioning on the left side --> This is the *theoretical* reason as to why you put people in the recovery position when unconcious (left lateral)... It *theoretically* kinks off the top of the stomach and prevents back flow into the oesophagus.

    I say *theoretical* because it has actually never been studied/ demonstrated....

    "Rest and digest" seems wrong to me because sleep is Rest and Regeneration, i.e. getting rid of the leftovers from the day, also in the colon and stomach (Bacteria, germs, food, ...)! If you eat late, you lose app. 4hrs of regeneration in this area which results in long-term damage.
    Ermmm.... Right.... I didn't 'make that up'. 'Rest and Digest' is the 'catch phrase' of the parasymathetic nervous system (just like people use 'fight and flight' in reference to the SNS).

    You might want to look here: READ ME and HERE

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  10. #10
    Registered User getactive's Avatar
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    Nice example there.
    But: Wouldn't constant unnatural stress of the esophageal sphincter with gastric juice lead to destruction of the tissues it consists of?

    Parasympathetic nervous system responsible for digestion. Acknowledged. All the sources agree on this one.

    Next thing that comes to my mind: Relaxation and a vertical position would be superior to digestion at night because gravity supports peristalsis, or not?

    AND: Digestion consumes energy, but sleep is what the body does to reduce energy consumption. Contradiction?

    Appreciate your input Emma-Leigh, just trying to question things.
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    Originally Posted by getactive View Post
    Nice example there.
    But: Wouldn't constant unnatural stress of the esophageal sphincter with gastric juice lead to destruction of the tissues it consists of?
    Firstly - gastric juice in the stomach is not 'an unnatural stress'. The mucosa is designed for this and has safety mechanisms in place to prevent damage and autodigestion.

    Acid in the lower oesophagus - yes this is harmful (hence the issue of Barrett's Oesophagus and the risk that chronic reflux can have on the future development of oesophageal carcinoma). But in most healthy individuals with an intact sphincter this is not an issue.

    Parasympathetic nervous system responsible for digestion. Acknowledged. All the sources agree on this one.

    Next thing that comes to my mind: Relaxation and a vertical position would be superior to digestion at night because gravity supports peristalsis, or not?
    1. Peristalsis is NOT unidirectional. It is segmental and longitudinal....
    2. your intestines are NOT 'vertical'. They are wrapped into a complex 'bundle' in your abdomen.

    So, no, this statement is incorrect.

    AND: Digestion consumes energy, but sleep is what the body does to reduce energy consumption. Contradiction.
    1. not moving much (decreased energy expenditure from muscle mass)
    2. decreased heart rate/ rate of breathing (decreased energy expenditure from respiratory and cardiac muscles)
    3. not thinking as much (decreased energy expenditure from thinking)
    ^^
    THESE are what are significant in decreasing energy output...
    Digestion? Not so much.
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  12. #12
    Registered User getactive's Avatar
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    digestion at night

    http://health.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=230695

    This "study" says the stages of your sleep will be messed up if you do eat right before going to bed.

    But other than that I cannot come up with anything scientific so far that would back up the old wive's tale.
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  13. #13
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    Originally Posted by chosenone28 View Post
    Now if you have been diagnosed to have acid reflux (As I have been) then would eating a meal directly before bed, or drinking a protein shake when I wake up in the night cause me to experience real bad symptoms? I use to eat directly before bed and then have a shake If I woke up, but now I make sure to stop eating 1-2 hours before actually going to sleep and no longer have a shake if I wake up and I dont suffer from the reflux symptoms. I wish my doctor would have informed me that this could be a problem...
    not always, i have it and i eat 8oz of cottage cheese, 1 tablespoon of peanubutter and 4 prunes right before sleep and im fine
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    Why do people always delve into complex answers for a simple question?

    Digestion is relatively the same at night time. That being said, your metabolic processes (including digestion, respiration, heart rate) slow down while you sleep. Is it by a large amount? no. Eating before bed keeps your body in an anabolic state for longer. No matter what your goals are, eating before bed is beneficial. So long as you are staying within your daily calories, and your macros, eating before bed isn't much different than eating at any other time, and it certainly won't make you fat (unless of course you are going OVER your calories/macros)

    This post is 100% bro science + common sense
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    Registered User jackvandenberg's Avatar
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    Well it depends, if you're eating the right stuff before bed you'll be fine. A good rule of thumb that works for me is eating about 30 minutes or so before i go to bed. You don't wanna be eating junk however, this will only hurt you if you wish to gain muscle. Consuming low fat dairy products high in protein in conjunction with some quality fats is good and will feed your body throughout the night when you're building up from the days lift.
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    Barrett's Esophagus, it is believed to be linked to the acidic stomach gases which have constantly refluxed into the esophagus. The stomach has a lining which protects it from the stomach acid but your esophagus does not, so the constant assault of stomach acid on your esophagus may cause the cells in the lining of the esophagus to change, resembling the acid resisting columnar cells present in your stomach.
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    Originally Posted by jackvandenberg View Post
    Well it depends, if you're eating the right stuff before bed you'll be fine. A good rule of thumb that works for me is eating about 30 minutes or so before i go to bed. You don't wanna be eating junk however, this will only hurt you if you wish to gain muscle. Consuming low fat dairy products high in protein in conjunction with some quality fats is good and will feed your body throughout the night when you're building up from the days lift.
    Answer me this:

    If you ate Mcdonalds right before bed would it be any different to eating Mcdonalds at lunch in regards to "hurting muscle gains". Seeing as you hit exactly the same macros for the day just switching lunch and dinner meal around.
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    anyone else

    heard this...sounds logical.

    When eating make sure your hydrated first so as not to drink anything while eating and some time after eating so as you dont dilute the acids that break down ur food, besides that of course chewing ur food till its liquid.

    On topic, I just avoid carbs later in the day.
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  19. #19
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    Originally Posted by Opies View Post
    Why do people always delve into complex answers for a simple question?

    ^that's a good question..dont see many of those lol.

    This post is 100% bro science + common sense
    ^also 100% correct
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    the only question that broscience tells me is..

    you don't really sleep when you drink because your body is bust filtering out alcohol (t or f?)
    if your body is busy digesting food would you still be getting as deep of sleep as if it wasn't?
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    Originally Posted by xMikroNx View Post
    heard this...sounds logical.

    When eating make sure your hydrated first so as not to drink anything while eating and some time after eating so as you dont dilute the acids that break down ur food, besides that of course chewing ur food till its liquid.
    You would need a ton and a half of water to significantly affect a solution such as your stomach's acid with plain water. Plain water has no significant pH changing ability (other than by dilution). pH is a logarithmic scale. To change the pH one unit, you need to add or take 10 times more H or OH... Since water might even be slightly acidic, you would need a lot of it to change the pH.... Look for the formulas and you will see... and that is assuming the cells in the stomach do not attempt to raise the acidity by pumping more acid.

    The reality is that adding water won't change the acid by much.

    Also keep in mind that water can be absorbed rather quickly, thus loosing whatever diluting ability it might have.

    Between these 3 facts, one could easily say that such ideas are old wive's tales.


    Originally Posted by Opies View Post
    Why do people always delve into complex answers for a simple question?
    Because it is BB.COM and people like to hear themeselves


    Originally Posted by Opies View Post
    Digestion is relatively the same at night time. That being said, your metabolic processes (including digestion, respiration, heart rate) slow down while you sleep. Is it by a large amount? no.
    Both the HR drop, respiration changes, and changes in circulation (specially if you sleep in the cold) are significant, IMO.

    Digestion increases blood to the stomach, and also probably raises HR, metabolism, body temperature, etc. I would imagine that since both processes counteract each other, this is why some people have a hard time falling asleep after a big meal. There are also hormones that might increase awareness (i.e. prevent your from falling asleep) that are secreted during some phases of digestions.

    Having said that, some people have little problem with falling asleep after a big meal, while others do.

    The whole concept of gravity and acid reflux is only true for people with certain ailments, as EL suggested.

    I don't think the human body is so poorly evolved that it would be that affected by gravity in terms of digestion (as far as lying vs. standing). However, the circulatory system is affected. As such, I am not sure if that would have a minor effect or not on the efficiency of digestion. This is not a topic I would dare try to guess, but it is a possibility.

    HTH someone
    Last edited by reefpicker; 04-13-2009 at 04:51 PM.
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    During sleep our bodies repair and restore themselves. Enzymes activate protein production, the blood circulates throughout the body carrying nutrients and oxygen, cells rid themselves of toxins, and the lymph system carries them away. At the same time, immune system cells are activated, which start the process all over again keeping our cells in a state of optimal health.

    When that activity occurs as intended, when cell energy is adequate, when circulation flows freely, when the immune system is not restricted in any way, and when there is adequate sleep time, our bodies are restored.
    ^^Doesnt seem to slow down anything.

    Things that effect metabalism
    -Hormone production
    -meal frequency-which isnt too significant
    -Food choice
    -Hydration
    -activity level
    -Amount of LBM
    -Genetics and age
    -Stress can slow the metabalism
    NOT sleeping enough where it would make a big difference.

    Some people find a warm bedtime drink to be comforting, however, it is very important to avoid drinking too much late in the evening. This can be especially true for older people. Getting up during the night to go to the bathroom disturbs your sleep cycle. Avoid tea and coffee in the evening, as these are stimulants and can keep you awake. A small amount of alcohol can act as a relaxant and help you sleep. However, drinking every night and heavy drinking disturb sleep and can cause early waking.

    To digest alcohol, your liver and kidneys have to work hard. Your body has to provide more adrenaline, which is a stimulant.
    ^^Alcohol is different, effects the body differently.
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    Originally Posted by dimasso69 View Post
    During sleep our bodies repair and restore themselves. Enzymes activate protein production, the blood circulates throughout the body carrying nutrients and oxygen, cells rid themselves of toxins, and the lymph system carries them away. At the same time, immune system cells are activated, which start the process all over again keeping our cells in a state of optimal health.
    All of these also occur when you are awake!

    Originally Posted by dimasso69 View Post
    Some people find a warm bedtime drink to be comforting, however, it is very important to avoid drinking too much late in the evening. This can be especially true for older people. Getting up during the night to go to the bathroom disturbs your sleep cycle. Avoid tea and coffee in the evening, as these are stimulants and can keep you awake. A small amount of alcohol can act as a relaxant and help you sleep. However, drinking every night and heavy drinking disturb sleep and can cause early waking.
    True.
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