A lot of the nutritional advice we've been received over the years is adamant about one thing: do not eat right before going to bed.
But scientists and fitness experts appear to have been taking another look at that advice:
Indeed, many nutritionists are saying it's actually beneficial to eat before bed — so long as you're eating the right thing.
ATTN: spoke with Shannon Clark, BPE, about what those foods are and why you may want to eat them. This interview has been edited for clarity.
ATTN:: We've been told by nutritionists for years not to eat before bed. Is it ever okay to eat before bed?
Clark: As long as you balance your total daily calorie intake, it's fine to have a snack before bed. It's only if you go over your daily calorie allotment that it becomes a big issue. Also, try and stay away from simple sugars and refined, deep fried, or fatty foods before bed as these will increase your risk of weight gain.
ATTN:: So what foods can you eat before bed? And why those certain foods?
Clark: Cottage cheese is a good choice as it's a slower digesting source of protein, thus will keep your body fed throughout the overnight fast. Any foods rich in protein and healthy fats are good choices. Salmon, chicken, lean beef, eggs, along with healthy fats like avocados, nut butters, nuts, and coconut will all fit the bill nicely.
ATTN:: What are the benefits of eating something like cottage cheese before bed?
Clark: It'll provide you with a slow burning source of protein that will get broken down and distributed to the muscles over a longer period of time. This can prevent your body from moving into a catabolic state.
ATTN:: And what exactly is a catabolic state?
Clark: So a catabolic state is where your body is breaking down tissues, rather than building them up. This could result in the loss of lean muscle mass, especially if you are already in a calorie deficit while on a fat loss diet plan. In general, you want to avoid being in a catabolic state at all times and getting a steady intake of protein will help you with this.
ATTN:: How soon before bed is it considered okay to eat?
Clark: Eat when it is comfortable for you and at a time that won't give you digestive troubles as you sleep. Some people can't go to bed right after eating, so if that's the case for you, try eating an hour or two prior to bed.
ATTN:: Do you think health and sleep are related?
Clark: Yes, very much so. Sleep impacts everything from your body weight, your mood, your energy level to your metabolic rate, and how your body processes the foods you eat. Sleep is very important!