Have you heard the tale that you can’t eat carbs past 5pm or eat anything late at night because it will make you gain weight because you are inactive and you won’t burn off the calories?
In reality, it isn’t that simple and while there is some truth to it, it's not the full story.
So what's the real story?
It all comes down to the type of meal you have and also whether you have exercised or not.
For most people, night time meals usually consist of a large portion of meat (beef/chicken/pork/fish) and a carbohydrate (pasta/rice/couscous/quinoa/potato/sweet potato/bread etc) and only a couple vegetables.
If you have been sedentary all day and then come home and are even more sedentary at night (usually sitting in front of the TV) until you go to bed. At this time in the evening, you don’t really require a high level of thinking or energy to get through the rest of the evening so sticking with protein, veggies and maybe a small piece of potato/sweet potato is actually all you need. Anything outside of the portion size you need at one time will be stored as fat.
So in this case, for a sedentary person large volumes of pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, potato or sweet potato will be too much carbohydrate at night time and most likely will lead to weight gain. (But if you have a more active job, then more carbohydrates at dinner are required).
What if you exercise at night?
For those of you who exercise at night time, you DO require more carbohydrate at dinner, especially if you don't get home from training until 8-10pm. As a result of training your muscle mass will have been damaged and glycogen stores (energy stores) will have been depleted (amount varies on training style). If your muscles and energy stores are not refueled appropriately, you are more likely to see poor recovery and and a decreased rate in muscle mass gain.
So depending upon the type of exercise you do and duration you do it for, make sure you refuel your body. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is, nutrition for your muscles is of high importance! Well... that is, of course, if you want to get stronger, more agile, or just feel better in general ;-)
Now let's chat about casein
So now that I have broken down night time eating, there is something else I want to discuss called casein.
Casein is a slow releasing protein found in dairy products. The reason why it is called a slow protein is because it generally forms a solid in the stomach more slowly and in a time released fashion. The body stays in an anabolic (muscle building) state overnight. And at night, testosterone - our muscle building hormone - is naturally elevated, so you can take advantage of this by consuming a slowly digested carbohydrate at night and protein is a great option.
Examples of good options are low fat/skim milk and milo, a couple crackers with cottage or ricotta cheese, or greek yoghurt and berries or a caesin protein powder. If you find you bloat or have wind from dairy products, try lactose free products and see if it disappears. Yopro and chofit yoghurt are lactose free and high in protein!
Not only will this help for muscle mass growth, but also if you train early morning, the small hit of carbs can help with performance in the morning.
So in reality eating at night is a win for muscle building! Don’t be afraid to eat... just learn the best options to have.
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