Hitting a late-night workout isn’t a crime. It demonstrates dedication and determination to meet your fitness goals, especially when it’s the result of being so busy during the day. The subject of what to eat after a workout at night, if at all, can dampen that show of willing, though, can’t it?
You get in, it’s dark, and despite feeling pretty good about your work ethic but a moment ago, you now face the fridge, about to snack just before bed time. So, what are the rules, or are there any?
To begin, let’s straighten out some important facts. Firstly, your body needs protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes of a workout. Secondly, within two hours of that exercise, you should restore your glycogen reserves – those are the carbohydrates stored within muscles.
That time following a workout is when your body needs you to take charge of your diet the most. It’s in this time that your muscles grow and body recovers, and you need to make sure that you provide your body with the fuel to do just that. Building muscle is about breaking it down with resistance training and then repairing it, and the food you eat after a workout does that reparation.
Then again, it’s not always a matter of choice or dedication. Working hours and irregular shift patterns may force you into a corner where the only time to workout is at night and so you eat closer to your bedtime than other folks. Preparation is key in these circumstances. You might try to avoid eating before bed by eating a proper meal before your workout of around 400 calories, so that you can top up your stores with only a light snack before you get to bed.
You probably already guessed that takeaways, frozen pizzas and other refined carbs not only have very little nutritive value, but do very little for your appetite or recovery after a long day and late workout. Don’t worry – we’ve got a few ideas of what to eat after a workout at night for you…
1. Protein Shakes and Protein Bars
Supplementing with protein shakes is the perfect way to get the protein your body needs within 30 minutes of a workout. The same goes for protein bars and snacks – they give you a healthy dose of protein and carbs immediately after exercise.
Try our Baked Protein Cookie bar after your late-night workout for a protein-packed treat that’ll satisfy your sweet cravings – minus the guilt.
2. Micellar Casein Protein
Micellar Casein protein, otherwise known as the bedtime protein, is the perfect pre-sleep supplement partner. It’s derived from milk and has a much slower absorption rate than whey protein, which means it can provide your muscles with a sustained supply of protein while you sleep. After you’ve had your fast-digesting whey or plant-based protein directly after your workout, drinking a casein shake just before sleep will aid muscle recovery and growth.
3. Yoghurt & Fruit
Natural and Greek yoghurt are full of probiotics – the friendly bacteria that help digestion, perfect for before bed. They’re also brimming with calcium and a source of protein. After a muscle-building workout, mix in a scoop of protein powder and fruit for muscle recovery and energy replenishment. The best thing about this snack is that it’ll feed your sweet-tooth cravings in a healthy way, without spiking your blood glucose levels.
4. Cottage Cheese
They say cheese gives you dreams when eaten close to bedtime, but cottage cheese is such a good source of protein and so filling that you should keep it in your fridge for midnight raids. Plus, it’s super low in fat, which means you won’t be eating any unnecessary calories before bed.
5. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are on our healthy gains shopping lists for nights and mornings. They’re so easy to prepare – just ten minutes to boil and you can take them into a container into the gym or have them waiting in the fridge for when you get home. They’re a great source of protein and healthy fats, plus, scientific research has recently shown that whole eggs fuel muscle-protein synthesis directly after a workout, moreso that just egg whites.
6. Hummus with Peppers
Still struggling to understand what to eat after a workout at night? Served with extra-virgin olive oil, roasted chickpeas are a filling and delicious snack, plus, they’re full of the protein and carbohydrates that are essential post-workout. If you’re peckish after a workout at night, dipping chopped coloured peppers into a luscious pot of hummus is the perfect moreish snack for replacing chips and crisps.
7. Salmon & Salad
It doesn’t necessarily have to be fresh salmon if you can’t source or catch any late at night. The idea here is that you may want a light meal, rather than a snack, and fatty fish with its important omega fatty acids and protein is filling and delicious, especially when accompanied by leafy greens. And as this kind of Mediterranean dish is proven to help both physical and cognitive health, you’ll sleep easy having served yourself a plate.
Take Home Message
Your body needs protein and carbohydrates for muscle development, energy and recovery after a workout, no matter what time of day it is. Late-night snacking may be billed as a big no-no, but your health and sleep will depend on replenishing your glycogen stores and getting the right nutrition. Knowing what to eat after a workout at night will keep you recovering right – peaking your performance in and out of the gym.