Healthy Recipes

Is It Okay to Eat a Meal Close to When I Go to Bed?

Why you need to rethink the old “go to bed hungry” thing.

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Peanut Butter on Bread
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THE QUESTION:  

I have a busy schedule and find myself having to squeeze in some late-night workouts. Is it OK to eat a meal close to when I go to bed?

THE ANSWER:

You've definitely heard that not eating too close to bedtime is a surefire way to keep your weight down. Although it sounds like a logical rule, the key may not necessar­ily be the timing of your meal but what you eat. A 2014 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating 30 grams of whey or casein protein 30 minutes before bed can up resting energy expendi­ture (or amount of calories required by your body while nonactive) the next morning. Another study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that downing 40 grams of casein 31⁄2 hours post­-workout, but also 30 minutes before bed, boosted muscle­-protein synthesis while sleeping.

Hungry for one more? A 12­-week, 2015 Maastricht University, Netherlands, study showed that subjects who consumed 28 grams of pro­tein plus 15 grams of carbs nightly before bed were stronger and bigger than the placebo group.

The body utilizes carbs to restock glucose and glycogen stores for energy, and protein helps boost metabolism and repair muscles—so eating small portions of carbs and protein before hitting the sack is good. Just stick with lean proteins and healthy complex carbs like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with some fruit, protein powder with milk and whole­ grain cereal, or a peanut butter sandwich on sprouted bread.

About the R.D.

Jim White, R.D., ACSM, is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia.

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