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The 4 Best Foods To Eat Before Bed

Updated on July 1, 2013

In the world of nutrition and fitness, there exist many myths of fairy-tale proportions. For
example, you’ve likely heard that you shouldn’t eat after 6pm…or, is it 7pm? Not unlike
the story of Cinderella’s spell that wore off at midnight, so-called fitness experts would
like you to believe that everything you consume after that “magical” time will quickly be
turned into belly fat. Essentially, the widely-held belief is that eating after this cut-off time
will not only hamper your weight loss efforts,it may even cause you to GAIN weight.
Well, we bear good news. Not every food that you eat past 7pm will be automatically
deposited to your butt, thighs, and love handles. As a matter of fact, we are going to
teach you exactly which foods to eat as a late-night snack to support your weight loss
and body composition goals. You’ll be extremely excited to learn that by choosing the
right foods, you can accelerate fat loss, support your calorie-burning lean muscle, and
improve recovery. Let’s get started!


Setting Yourself Up for Failure

If you have placed this fictitious cut-off time on yourself before, you know that it requires
great discipline and the exertion of exceptional will power. The reason is that satiety —
feelings of satisfaction and fullness —decreases over the course of the day.12 That’s right,
Father Time is actually working against you! This explains why you can eat perfectly well all
day, yet begin ravenously eye-balling ice cream, donuts, and more as the day progresses.
Seeing that psychologists now believe that willpower is like a muscle and you have
a limited pool of mental resources that you can use to overcome such enticing
temptations,4 this self-imposed food curfew may lead you to succumb to those
devastating food choices that can actually hurt you in your battle of the bulge. Why not
remove this unnecessary ban and make choices that can actually help move closer
toward your goals instead?


Hungry, Hungry Hormones

As day time and nighttime satiety have already been introduced into the conversation, it’s
important to discuss a couple key hormones before we delve into exactly which foods to eat
and which to avoid. Specifically, let’s briefly touch on the hormones insulin and glucagon.
Essentially, insulin is both a storage hormone and an anti-breakdown hormone. It is
secreted by the pancreas in response to an elevation in blood sugar, as its primary task is to
tightly regulate blood sugar levels. Thus, high carbohydrate foods have the greatest impact
on insulin secretion. As a storage hormone, insulin’s task is to push nutrients into the body’s
tissues, like muscle, fat, and the liver. Insulin can also put the breaks on lipolysis and fat
oxidation (e.g., fat burning) and can increase the storage of carbohydrates as fat.8
Generally speaking, carbohydrate tolerance and insulin sensitivity are impaired as
the day progresses,18, 27, 48, 49, 53 which means that controlling blood sugar levels and
managing insulin become even more critical in the late-night eating window. Jacking up
insulin at this time can sabotage your fat loss efforts.
This leads us to our first important point about food-making decisions before bed: Avoid carbs.


Powerful Protein

It should be now clear that high-protein foods are far more favorable than highcarbohydrate
foods for pre-bedtime feedings. Protein stimulates the release of the
hormone glucagon, which accelerates fat burning and inhibits the release of the storage
hormone insulin. Remember what we said that the beginning: by choosing the right
foods, you can not only avoid weight gain, you can promote fat loss.
There are many other reasons to focus on a higher protein intake at this time. A highprotein
snack not only encourages fat loss, but it also promotes overall health and
supports the recovery and maintenance of our calorie-burning lean muscle.
High-protein diets also lead to better weight loss profiles than high-carbohydrate diets
at the same calorie level.25 What’s more, high-protein diets spare lean muscle mass
and help prevent a decrease in metabolic rate that is typically associated with reduced
calorie diets and weight loss.44 Protein-rich foods are unique in that they induce a
greater sense of satiety than other foods,2, 3, 6, 11, 19, 46, 48 which means that they’ll best
satisfy those late-night cravings. In addition, protein is calorically expensive to digest,
absorb, and assimilate. It has a much greater thermic effect of feeding than other
nutrients,23, 30, 33, 51 which means that you’ll increase your metabolism by reaching for
protein.

Not all proteins are created equally, however. It appears that at this late juncture in the
day, slow-digesting proteins are the superior choice. First of all, fast-digesting proteins
like whey lead to an insulin response that rivals that of heavily-processed, highcarbohydrate
white bread,40 and we already know that we want to do our best to keep
insulin in check before bed.
What’s more, fast-acting whey protein results in a dramatic but short increase in
availability of amino acids, while slower-digesting proteins (e.g., casein) induce a much
slower, sustained release of amino acids that can provide up to 7 hours of sustained
nutrition,7 to cover nearly the entire overnight fast.
As a matter of fact, consuming slow-digesting protein before bed helps to stimulate
muscle growth and improve whole-body protein balance if you’ve exercised earlier in
the day, offering body composition benefits while you sleep.37 Researchers noted:
“During sleep casein protein was effectively digested and absorbed resulting in a rapid
rise in circulating amino acid levels which were sustained throughout the remainder of
the night. Protein ingestion prior to sleep increased whole-body protein synthesis rates
… and improved net protein balance …”


The Top Pre-Bedtime Food Choices

1. White Meat Protein
2. Cottage Cheese
3. Green Vegetables

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