There are many people who work out at night. Some do it because they like to workout at night and some do it because they do not have any other choice as they are busy the whole day. Not skipping on exercise despite busy schedules and choosing to do it at night shows a person’s dedication towards their health and fitness goals. However, many wonder what is best to eat after exercising at night. In this article, we will discuss about night workouts and what should you eat after exercising at night.
The Importance of What You Eat After Exercising
Consuming protein and carbohydrates after a workout can aid in muscle recovery by replenishing the body’s energy stores and helping to repair muscle tissue.(1) While some studies suggest that consuming protein within an hour or two of exercise may be beneficial, there is no hard and fast rule. It is generally recommended to consume a balanced meal containing both protein and carbohydrates within two hours of exercise to replenish glycogen reserves and support muscle recovery.
Glycogen reserves are there to provide the body with the necessary fuel when doing any intense work. Muscle building consists of breaking them down using resistance training and then repairing it and this is why the food eaten after a workout session is important, as it is responsible for repairing the muscles.
If time is of constraint and after exercising the only time you get to eat is before you hit the bed then preparation is important in such cases.
It is recommended to avoid having heavy meals just before you go to bed and instead you can have a light meal before your workout and a light snack after exercising at night and before going to bed.
What To Eat After Exercising At Night? Best Foods for Muscle Recovery and Good Sleep
Some of the best foods to eat after exercising at night which will not only help in repairing the sore muscles, but which also replenish the depleted glycogen stores so you wake up fresh in the morning are:
- Almonds: Almonds are tiny shots of nutrients containing protein, healthy fats and fiber and are also great for snacking after a workout especially at late-night when you are feeling peckish. Almonds are also rich in magnesium and melatonin.(2) Melatonin helps in regulating your body’s internal clock and helps in inducing sleep. Magnesium helps with the quality of sleep by decreasing inflammation in body and by lowering the levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone.(3)
- Quinoa: Quinoa is full of complex carbohydrate(4) and is a great food which lowers the cortisol levels, thus giving you a good night’s sleep. Quinoa is a good source of protein and has all the nine essential amino acids(4), which aid with muscle recovery while you get your shuteye. A small bowl of quinoa taken after exercising is enough to provide your body with its nutrition and helps with sleep too.
- Micellar Casein Protein: Micellar Casein protein also referred to as the bedtime protein is the best pre-sleep supplement to take after working out. It is derived from milk and has a slower rate of absorption when compared to whey protein leading to sustained supply of protein to the muscles when you sleep.(5, 6) When you have had the fast-digesting plant-based protein or whey immediately after exercising, then drinking a casein shake before going to sleep will help in muscle growth and recovery.(7)
- Protein Bars and Protein Shakes: Protein shakes are a great way to supplement your body with protein and should be taken at least within 30 minutes of your exercise session. Protein bars and snacks are also great for giving a healthy shot of protein and carbohydrates as soon as you are done with your exercise.
- Fruit and Yoghurt: Greek and natural yoghurt are a rich source of probiotics which are the friendly bacteria that help with digestion and are the perfect food to take after exercising and before going to bed.(8) Yogurt is also rich in calcium and protein.(8, 9) Eating fruits mixed with yogurt satisfies the sweet-tooth cravings in a healthy manner. Most the foods derived from dairy such as yogurt and even milk contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid the body uses to produce melatonin and serotonin which help with sleep.
- Cottage Cheese: It is said that cheese gives a person dreams when it is eaten before sleeping. Cottage cheese not only is a good source of protein, but is also filling which makes it an ideal midnight snack.(10,11) Cheese contains healthy fats and is great for your health especially to eat after working out.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are notoriously known for their healthy protein content and are consumed by many gym goers. They can be taken at night or in the morning. They are easy to prepare, easy to eat and easy to digest.(12) It takes just ten minutes for them to boil and you can carry them anywhere with you and they are great for eating after exercising at night. Hard-boiled eggs are not only a good source of protein, but also have healthy fats and according to studies whole eggs provide fuel to the synthesis of muscle-protein when eaten immediately after a workout.(13) It’s important to note that while egg whites are high in protein, the yolk contains many important nutrients, such as vitamins A and D, as well as healthy fats. It’s not necessary to avoid the yolk unless you have a specific dietary restriction or allergy.
- Turkey: Turkey contains about 8g of protein per ounce and also is rich in tryptophan, which makes it an ideal food to eat after exercising at night, as it helps with muscle recovery and also helps with your sleep.(14,15,16)
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is an all rounder food which has many health benefits, such as decreasing blood sugar, helping with weight loss, and cutting down the risk of heart disease.(16) Oatmeal is also a nutrient-dense food with lots of healthy carbs. You can add any fruit to your oatmeal, such as banana, strawberries for added nutrition and adding some nut butter will give you extra protein. While oatmeal is a nutritious food, it’s important to note that these health benefits are not exclusive to oatmeal and can also be obtained from a variety of other whole foods.
- Hummus with Peppers: Hummus is made with roasted chick peas and extra-virgin olive oil and is a delicious and filling snack, which is also rich in carbohydrates and protein that are important to consume after exercising. You can take hummus with peppers post-workout. Chopped colored peppers dipped in the hummus are the perfect late night snack and a healthy replacement for fries and chips.
- Salad and Salmon: Salmon is great to have as a light meal after exercising at night and before you hit the sack. Salmon is rich in protein and omega fatty acids.(17) and is not only delicious to eat, but is also filling more so when accompanied by salad. Salmon is also known to benefit not only physical health, but also cognitive health.(18, 19)
After any type of workout, the body needs carbohydrates and protein for development and repairing of muscles and for energy. Eating late at night is a big no-no; however, after exercising at night, it is important to eat the right kind of food to provide nutrition to the body and restore the glycogen stores as your health as well as sleep depends on it. Eating the correct foods, after exercising late at night, helps in recovering and also enhancing your performance within the gym and outside the gym.