The most experienced fitness trainers will advise you to prioritize your sleep routine. This is because the time you spend sleeping is when your body is actually in the process of recovery and building muscles.
One way to optimize the muscle-building process is to give your body a little extra snack right before you go to bed.
Of course, you cannot pack too many calories before you sleep, as that would be detrimental to your bodybuilding goals.
So, you need to know the right kinds of foods to eat before bed. A lot of factors, including their protein content, carbohydrates, and amount of fat, determine if your pre-bedtime snack will promote muscle growth or not.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the most efficient pre-bedtime meals that will help you gain muscle efficiently.
- Maintaining a healthy supply of protein can prevent the breaking down of muscles and promote the building up of muscles instead. For this, a protein-rich meal is required every 3-4 hours, which is not possible while sleeping. Pre-bedtime meals containing slow digesting proteins can keep the amino acid supply running overnight and help muscle protein synthesis.
- Including slow-digesting proteins like casein in pre-bedtime meals is more effective for muscle protein synthesis.
- Casein’s absorption rate is slower. As per a study, consumption of whey protein leads to elevated blood amino acid levels in just under 60 minutes, with peak levels arriving in around 90 minutes. Casein protein takes longer to increase blood amino acid levels but does so consistently for over 300 minutes (4-5 hours).
What to Eat Before Bed to Gain Muscle?
When we talk about meals to pack before going to sleep, we don’t mean having dinner. There should be a healthy time lag between finishing the last major meal of the day and sleeping.
But if you’re tired of not getting bigger and want to overcome the plateau, your dietary habits should not end with just dinner.
To build more muscle mass, you need to pack in some extra protein. Of course, pre-bedtime snacks have some pre-written rules – they cannot be calorie-dense, and they need to be rich in protein and healthy fat.
Eating such meals (or snacks) before going to bed will give your body that extra source of protein for completing the muscle synthesis process and allow you to build muscle quickly.
As per a study, ingestion of Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) leads to an increase in leucine transmission into muscle. Thus, mTORC1, the primary regulator in controlling skeletal muscle mass, is activated and stimulates muscle protein synthesis more efficiently.
In fact, the anabolic potency for increasing muscle gains following resistance training is similar to an intact whey mixture. Thus, consumption of both whey and WPH as a pre-bedtime meal is effective for promoting overall muscle protein anabolism.
Casein consumption is even more efficient at promoting MPS while the body is in a state of rest. This is reflected in a recent study that concluded whey protein consumption leads to an increase in muscle protein synthesis for up to 3.5 hours after ingestion.
In contrast, the consumption of slow-digesting proteins like casein can increase the muscle protein synthesis rate for as long as 6 hours after ingestion.
A different piece of scientific research noted that casein consumption led to a peak in increasing muscle protein synthesis rate after around 120 minutes of a workout. Whey protein, on the other hand, peaked after just 60 minutes of a workout session.
Choosing the right kind of pre-bedtime snacks, therefore, involves choosing the right sources of protein to promote muscle anabolism at night.
So, what are the best foods to eat at night to gain muscle? Let’s find out.
Casein and Flaxseed Oil
This is a meal option for people who are okay with having supplements before their bedtime. Casein protein powder is excellent for eating before bed if your primary goal is to promote your body’s muscle synthesis process.
It is a slow-digesting protein. As such, your body will enjoy a slow release of amino acids, giving your body protein coverage for the entire night as you sleep.
But make sure that you mix or blend the powder thoroughly with water, as the protein takes quite an effort to dissolve completely.
Combining casein protein with flax seed oil is pretty smart. The former acts as a source of high-quality, slow-digesting protein, while the latter is a rich source of healthy fats.
Flax seed oil can make you feel full and make the protein digestion process even slower, allowing your body to get a healthy release of amino acids as long as you are sleeping.
Apart from that, there are some other health benefits like preventing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, and so on.
Twenty-eight grams of casein powder mixed with one tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains:-
- Calories: 221
- Protein: 20 grams
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
One confusion that many people share is how to take casein powder and flaxseed oil together.
The answer is quite simple. All you need to do is add a tablespoon or so of flaxseed oil to your protein shake. It’s recommended that you make the shake using water to remain light on calories, as this is a pre-bedtime snack.
Cottage Cheese with Almonds
For vegetarians, cottage cheese is the most accessible source of protein. Its macronutrient profile is quite effective, especially from a bodybuilder’s point of view. Cottage cheese contains both whey and casein, offering a good option for those who want a little variety in their protein intake habits.
Similarly, almonds have their own sets of advantages as well. They are packed with healthy and important fats that can be used by the body to prevent catabolism.
The other advantage of having almonds right before sleeping is that they will make you feel full and slow down the protein digestion process. Thus, you will sleep soundly and deeply, giving your body more room to build muscle efficiently.
1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese and around 28 grams of almonds will contain:-
- Calories: 327
- Protein: 34 grams
- Carbs: 11 grams
- Fat: 16 grams
Individually, cottage cheese and almonds are healthy enough. But when combined into a meal, they almost complement each other and provide a nice set of benefits to bodybuilders looking to gain more muscle.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be considered one of the most important ingredients in our supplement regimen. But it’s one element that is often missing from our diet.
Fitness enthusiasts can easily fix that by incorporating salmon into their nightly diet routines. Sure, eating salmon is more of a meal rather than a snack, but the nutrient profile is almost the same as any other alternatives that we have mentioned.
Besides, a small piece of salmon cooked with olive oil is practically a snack for bodybuilders. And it is an excellent one to have before your bedtime.
Four ounces of salmon will contain:-
- Calories: 166
- Protein: 52 grams
- Fat: 72 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
Salmon is a rich source of protein and contains many heart-friendly fatty acids. It is an excellent choice for fitness-conscious individuals who are on a muscle building journey.
Grilled Chicken Strips
Anything poultry is excellent as a pre-bedtime snack for aiding your muscle growth journey. Chicken being the most accessible is definitely a plus, especially because it is an excellent source of protein.
But you don’t want to be undoing your hard work at the gym by packing in a lot of calories.
So, you need a low-key chicken dish to get your protein levels up with a menial increase in your calorie intake. Around 50 grams of skinless grilled chicken strips to pack a delicious, low-calorie snack that is high in protein.
50 grams of grilled chicken strips will contain:-
- Calories: 67
- Protein: 13 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
To take it up a notch, you can also pair up your grilled chicken strips with a side of veggies or a cup of hummus for added benefits and taste enhancement.
After a long day of working and working out, most people might not have the energy to prepare a meal before bedtime.
To avoid wasting your efforts at the gym by sleeping without a pre-bedtime snack, you can consider having canned tuna.
The protein content of canned tuna is pretty solid for fuelling the muscle-building process of any bodybuilder.
One ounce (28 grams) of canned tuna contains:-
- Calories: 56
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
You can also add some healthy fats to your canned tuna by stirring it in olive oil.
This is another good alternative if you can’t get your hands on naturally derived peanut butter.
Almond butter might not be as accessible, especially the ones made with only a handful of safe ingredients. But if you find the right one for yourself, it could serve as a pretty effective nighttime snack for muscle growth.
It contains many fats which are healthy for your heart, along with slow-digesting proteins that will work all night while you sleep.
One tablespoon of almond butter contains:-
- Calories: 98
- Protein: 4 grams
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Fat: 9 grams
The above macronutrient profile only reflects the nutrients present in one tablespoon of almond butter. You can adjust the quantity based on your macro requirements and fitness goals.
Almond butter is a healthy option because it is derived from an actual nut. Thus, it is strictly compatible with paleo diets.
Another option for those who cannot prepare a healthy pre-bedtime snack for themselves. Milk is every-available and accessible to everyone.
Dairy products are sort of the staple food for nighttime dietary routines. And milk is the ultimate dairy product.
Milk is the richest natural source of the slow-digesting, coveted protein called casein. A whole glass of milk will come with its own combination of casein and fats, making it the ultimate nighttime snack for muscle-building.
One cup of cow’s milk contains:-
- Calories: 152
- Protein: 14 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
It cannot get any easier than drinking a glass of milk. All you need to do is pop the lid open and chug it down. And there you have it – the perfect pre-bedtime snack that you need for positive muscle growth!
Cheese with Green Vegetables
On the surface, cheese might look like an unhealthy option. But it’s actually pretty effective for muscle growth.
The problem is that there are too many different types of cheese. Some are healthy, others are not. Choose one based on your dietary restrictions and habits.
Full-fat and low-fat cheese, however, are the best sources of proteins when it comes to eating cheese, irrespective of how much fat they contain.
28 grams of hard cheese will contain:-
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Fat: 6 grams
As you can see, cheese is pretty low on carbohydrates. As such, you can pair it up with any green vegetable to balance it out before going to bed.
Greek Yogurt with Chia Seeds
When it comes to the best kind of food to eat before bed to gain muscle, Greek Yogurt can be a good pick.
Its protein content is relatively higher when compared to any kind of regular yogurt. So, you are getting double the benefits at the same level of caloric intake.
Apart from that, Greek Yogurt is also excellent for your gut health. So, you will always have healthy digestion if it is a regular part of your diet. All of these advantages combine to make Greek Yogurt a prime muscle-building snack.
Now, Greek Yogurt is just a snack. But you can make it into a meal by adding a tablespoon or so of chia seeds. These high-fiber seeds have become popular only recently in fitness circles.
Chia seeds offer a range of benefits, such as high anti-oxidant content, availability of quality protein, and presence of omega-3 fatty acids. They are definitely small in size, but their influence on your muscle growth can be large.
One cup of Greek Yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds contains:-
- Calories: 180
- Protein: 23 grams
- Carbs: 14 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
Another benefit of having greek yogurt mixed with chia seeds is that both of these ingredients are quite accessible. So you don’t have to rely on costly supplements to aid your muscle-building process.
Hard Boiled Eggs with Avocados
When it comes to the most efficient food to eat before bed for muscle growth, eggs would definitely top the list.
They are one of the richest and most accessible, affordable sources of protein. Besides, eggs are highly flexible in terms of how you prepare them. So, you’ll never get bored of having the same kind of meal every night. However, hard-boiled eggs might be more suitable if your goal is to gain muscle.
You can pair up your boiled eggs with avocados, another rich source of healthy fat. Apart from being good for your health, avocados are also tasty and versatile.
Adding avocados to your egg-based dish can amp up both the taste and the macronutrient profile of the meal.
Two whole eggs combined with 56 grams of avocados will contain:-
- Calories: 244
- Protein: 14 grams
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Fat: 18 grams
Another thing of note, eating egg yolk is completely safe and healthy for your fitness goals. Apart from offering a decent amount of nutrients and essential fats at reasonable calories, they also allow your body to regulate hormone levels.
Whey Protein with Peanut Butter
Finally, we have the ultimate bodybuilding weapon – whey protein. It is cheap, convenient, easily accessible, and highly versatile in terms of flavor. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about indigestion when it comes to whey protein.
For most fitness enthusiasts, whey protein is almost the staple supplement. It contains healthy amounts of essential amino acids as well as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are highly effective for recovery and muscle retention.
Taking whey protein as a pre-bedtime snack is definitely one of the most viable options.
But what about having whey with natural peanut butter? The idea is definitely promising. Doing so will work on two fronts – it will improve the taste of the meal and provide some healthy fats to add to your nutrient profile.
You can mix some amount of peanut butter with your whey protein to get a pudding-like mixture. Add some amount of water, depending on your preferences. This is the recommended method of eating both ingredients together as a meal. But many people also have them separately to enjoy the benefits as per their taste.
Either way, whey protein with peanut butter will definitely taste better than it sounds. More importantly, it will offer a lot of benefits if your primary concern is to build muscle.
28 grams of whey protein powder mixed with 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter will contain:-
- Calories: 288
- Protein: 28 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fat: 16 grams
Another important thing to note is that it’s easy to go overboard on calories when it comes to any meal containing peanut butter. As such, make sure that you keep your habits regulated and healthy.
When it comes to gaining muscle, simply working out to exhaustion is not the answer. Diet will play a huge role in how your body reacts to the number of hours that you are putting in the gym.
One way to get a step further is to incorporate light but protein-rich snacks into your diet. You can have these snacks right before your bedtime to achieve optimal results.