Eating too close to bedtime is another meal-timing factor that can sabotage your health. It’s important to have a minimum of three hours after your last food intake before you go to bed. Ideally, aim for as much as six hours between your last meal and your scheduled bedtime.
The rationale for this recommendation has to do with the way your body produces energy. Your mitochondria are responsible for “burning” the fuel your body consumes and converting it into usable energy. These tiny bacterial derivatives live inside your cell and are optimized to create energy from the food you eat and the oxygen in the air you breathe. Your cells have between 100 and 100,000 mitochondria.
Your mitochondria have a series of electron transport chains in which they pass electrons from the reduced form of the food you eat to and combine it with oxygen from the air you breathe to form water. This process drives protons across the mitochondrial membrane, which recharges ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from ADP (adenosine diphosphate). ATP is the carrier of energy throughout your body.
A major side effect of this transfer of electrons is that some leak from the electron transport chain to react with oxygen to form the free radical superoxide. Superoxide anion, the product of a one electron reduction of oxygen, is the precursor of most reactive oxygen species and a mediator in oxidative chain reactions. These oxygen free radicals attack the lipids in your cell membranes, protein receptors, enzymes, and DNA that can prematurely kill your mitochondria.
Please understand that some free radicals are actually good and your body requires them to regulate cellular function. The problem is when you have excessive free radical production. Sadly that is the case for the majority of the population and why most diseases, especially cancers, are acquired. There are two possible solutions, increase your antioxidants or reduce mitochondrial free radical production.
If you feed your body shortly before sleeping you will have large amounts of fuel your body simply has no need for, which will result in a massive increase in leakage of electrons that combine with oxygen to form free radicals, which damage your DNA, and thereby radically increases your risk of cancer.
It may be too complex for many laypeople, but the take-home message is that since your body uses the least amount of calories when sleeping, you’ll want to avoid eating close to bedtime because adding excess fuel at this time will generate excessive free radicals that will damage your tissues, accelerate aging, and contribute to chronic disease.
Source: “Mitochondrial DNA Damage and Animal Longevity: Insights from Comparative Studies.”