How often do you go through this sequence of events?
It’s 11 pm, you ate dinner 4 hours ago, had a super busy day, and are now rifling through your kitchen for a nutritious snack before you go to bed that won’t lead to weight gain.
Well, one of the best choices you could make is a protein-rich snack such as cottage cheese , according to a recent study.
Michael Ormsbee, Associate Professor of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University (FSU) and former FSU graduate student, Samantha Leyh, determined that eating 30 grams of protein about 30 minutes before bedtime leads to a favorable effect on metabolism along with improvements in muscle quality and overall health. Their study also noted that study subjects did not experience a gain in body fat
Their findings were published late last week in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The study participants, active and healthy women in their early 20s, consumed samples of cottage cheese 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. The goal of the researchers was to determine whether this food would have an impact on their metabolism—resting energy expenditure, resting energy requirements and appetite—as well as functional muscle recovery.
What made this study unique, however, is that instead of a protein shake or supplement, participants ate a whole food.
“Until now, we presumed that whole foods would act similarly to the data on supplemental protein, but we had no real evidence, ” said Ormsbee in a press release. “This is important because it adds to the body of literature that indicates that whole foods work just as well as protein supplementation, and it gives people options for pre-sleep nutrition that go beyond powders and shaker bottles.”
Samantha Leyh, currently a research dietician in the Air Force, explained that the results in this small study will help to form the basis for future research on specific metabolic responses to consuming whole foods as protein sources.
“While protein supplements absolutely have their place, it is important to begin pooling data for foods and understanding the role they can play in these situations,” said Leyh in a press release. “Like the additive and synergistic effects of vitamins and minerals when consumed in whole food form such as fruits or veggies, perhaps whole food sources may follow suit. While we can’t generalize for all whole foods as we have only utilized cottage cheese, this research will hopefully open the door to future studies doing just that.”
Cottage cheese is an ideal choice for a late night snack because its high in protein and low in carbohydrates . In fact, it’s ok to eat “full fat” cottage cheese, since 2/3 of a cup has less than 6 grams of fat, which ultimately will help you feel full and reduce cravings. In fact, cottage cheese with live and active cultures is essentially like taking a probiotic, so you can skip taking a supplement.
Another great late-night option is Greek yogurt–with about twice the protein and half the carbohydrates of plain yogurt. Adding pomegranate seeds or blueberries will also provide a healthy boost of antioxidants.
A 1 ounce serving of pistachios (49 nuts) may also provide a perfect late night option, since it will allow you to consume more nuts per ounce. Snacking on pistachios, as opposed to pretzels or chips, will promote weight loss and help improve your cholesterol and lipid profile.
Ormsbee states that his team will be looking at additional pre-sleep food choices as well as longer-term studies to learn more about the optimal foods that may help people and athletes more effectively recover post exercise, along with repair and regeneration of muscle.
It’s also important to mention that eating a large calorie load before bed associated is with weight gain, not to mention poor sleep quality. Drinking 1-2 glasses of water along with your late night snack will also hydrate you and reduce cravings.