Don’t Eat Late At Night

Posted June 13, 2011 in Bodybuilding Myths 4 Comments »

Should Bodybuilders Eat Late at Night?

Don't Eat at Night

Bodybuilders are subjected to a million different tips about what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat. We are constantly looking for new foods and diet strategies to help us gain muscle but not fat, or to lose fat but not muscle.

So what is the truth? Should we listen to Oprah? Should we listen to Mr. Olympia? Is Atkins right or does Intermittent Fasting work better? As an individual you need to try different strategies in order to see if they work best for you.

The Myth

It is common knowledge that if you eat before bed, those calories will stored as fat. It might be considered common knowledge, but is it true?

The Truth

For athletes looking to gain muscle mass and strength, one strategy that I have used and recommended to clients over the years, is to eat within 15 minutes of going to bed at night. Not junk food. Nothing full of fat and carbs. Instead it should be a small meal of slow-digesting protein with an optional small amount of complex carbohydrates.

The Science

You are in a state of fasting when you sleep. When you fast, your body uses blood glucose and then muscle protein for fuel. The amino acids from the protein are converted into glucose. Theoretically the longer you fast, the more muscle tissue is converted to glucose for energy.

The solution would be to provide your body with slow-digesting protein like casein, along with some whole grains like oatmeal or stone ground wheat. Cottage cheese is also a great choice as it is nearly pure casein protein along with some carbs. The carbs will fuel your body while the protein will repair damaged tissue and build new muscle.

In fact, an 8-week study conducted by the Weider Research Group suggests that trained bodybuilders gain more muscle when they drink a casein protein shake right before bed, than when they drank the shake during the day.

The Conclusion

While you may not want to eat before bed when you’re trying to lose fat, it is really helpful to use a casein-based meal or shake before you go to sleep, when trying to gain muscle and strength.

For you hard gainers, try to get 20-40 grams of casein protein in a shake or cottage cheese. Pair that up with another 20-40 grams of complex carbs in the form of oats, sweet potatoes, or whole grain bread or pasta.

For those who tend to gain fat easily, you might want to keep it down to about 20 grams of protein and no added carbs other than what is already in your protein shake or cottage cheese.

The Alternative

Some folks report great muscle gain while following an Intermittent Fasting diet. This would include fasting prior to bedtime, all through the morning, up until lunch time the next day. I haven’t experienced this effect yet, but then again I’ve only tried it for about a month. If you’re interested in this theory, check out Martin Berkan’s Leangains diet.

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4 Responses to “Don’t Eat Late At Night”

    • Whey protein is OK, but it digests quickly. Casein is best for a nighttime meal because it digests slower and keeps a steady supply of amino acids in your system.

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