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If You’re Going to Snack Before Bed, Make it This

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Eating before bed is often discouraged. It not only gives your digestion system extra work to do when your body is trying to rest, but it can lead to acid reflux and keep you up tossing and turning. But the reality is that hunger doesn’t consider the rest of our needs when it strikes, and sometimes eating before bed will make the night more restful than being hungry through it would. The good news is, that if you eat the right thing it can actually have some benefits.

A study published in Journal of Nutrition actually found that drinking a protein shake before bed can increase muscle synthesis by up to 22 percent. The study took place over a 12 week period and asked 39 men to follow their normal diet but also lift weights three times a week and follow it with a 275 calorie snack.

Nineteen of the 39 participants were also asked to drink a protein shake before they went to bed. At the end of the study the results showed that the guys who also drank a protein shake before bed had muscles that were 3 percent stronger than the rest.

The head of the study Tim Snijders, Ph.D. explained the results.

“It’s remarkable that ingesting protein before sleep increased muscle mass and strength even when these men already took in relatively high daily protein (.6g protein/ lb of body weight). We can’t conclude that [nighttime protein] is more effective for muscle building, but it’s certainly a viable option.”

So what does this mean for you? Well if strengthening your muscles is on your agenda then having a snack before bed might actually help you out, as long as you make the right food choice. Aim for a protein shake that has 27.5 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbs as was used in the study. There are plenty of protein shakes and powders on the market that have around 25 grams of protein in a serving which makes throwing one together pretty easy.

Interestingly, some people think that the body can’t effectively make use of more than 40 grams of protein in a meal, so part of the effectiveness of having some of it before bed might simply be because the body can actually make use of it at that point in the day. However it is also true that the body breaks down different types of proteins at very different rates so it sort of depends on which proteins you get from animal sources and which you get from vegetarian sources like whey or beans.

Keep in mind that the study was done on men who were weight lifting three times a week, and that’s an integral factor in the outcome. Simply adding more protein and calories to your diet isn’t going to strengthen your muscles if you aren’t hitting the weight room as well. Keep in mind to most effectively work the muscles in your body you should mix in active weight moves that use multiple muscles in addition to the weight machines. Anything you can do to engage and activate more muscles will lead to a more holistic muscle building approach.

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About Kate Ferguson Kate Fergus is a Los Angeles local and freelance writer for a variety of blogs and online magazines. When she's not writing, the UC Davis graduate is focused on pursuits of the entertainment industry, spin class, and hot sauce.

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