You’ve had a chaotic day from beginning to end, and finally, you get a moment to yourself. A nighttime workout gives you the chance to restore your equilibrium.
Even though it can be harder to hit the gym late at night, evening workouts are beneficial and can be even more convenient if you know how to work out at home.
In fact, working out at night can come with perks like improved power, performance, flexibility, and reaction time.
Plus, it feels so cathartic to spend time focusing on yourself as the stress of the day melts away. Since you’ve channeled your remaining energy into exercising, your body and mind are refreshed, relaxed, and re-centered by the time you’re ready to sleep.
But there’s one question left on your mind. Now that it’s late, what should you eat to help your body recover without disrupting your ability to sleep soundly?
You are probably asking yourself, “Is it bad to not eat after a workout at night?” While eating immediately before bed doesn’t seem like the best idea, it is important to eat alongside working out. Not eating after a workout at night can lead to low blood sugar, fatigue, and disorientation.
Also, exercising subjects muscles to micro-tears which repair themselves to build strength. The body needs ample nutrition to repair itself via glycogen stores.
Plus, working out at night adds a layer of complexity to food choices because the food should aid recovery without sacrificing sleep quality.
When you’re considering what to eat late at night after a workout, it’s vital to replenish carbs and protein. And electrolytes are helpful after a particularly long or strenuous workout.
So before you turn in for the night, eat something that gives you essential nutrition while facilitating these mechanisms:
While many people feel relaxed post-workout, exercise can actually release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It can be harder to fall and stay asleep with heightened levels of these hormones.
So look for foods that help balance stress hormones. For example, high-fiber and complex carbohydrates that are rich in nutrients can help regulate blood sugar and cortisol. Additionally, foods containing antioxidants, beta-sitosterol, melatonin, and magnesium can help stabilize stress hormones for restful sleep.
Other stress-fighting nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and protein.
The relationship between diet, digestion, and sleep is especially relevant for those with heartburn/acid reflux, IBS, and other digestive disorders, but gut health is something everyone should consider.
When weighing your post-workout meal options before bed, be sure to avoid excessively large meals or foods that are hard to digest. These will tax your digestive system while it’s trying to rest, potentially keeping you up.
If you eat sensible quantities of the proper food after your nighttime fitness routine and get great sleep, your body will thank you when you discover what's good to eat at night after a workout.
Science says that eating after exercising and before bed might actually enhance protein absorption. Being smart about your nightly recovery meal may help you rebuild muscle.
Consider some of these foods before a restful and rejuvenating night of sleep during or after your post-workout meal to avoid depleting muscle glycogen stores:
Broccoli and leafy greens like spinach will give you some magnesium.
Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, making for a great evening recovery food. Bananas are another magnesium-rich fruit that reduces inflammation and balances cortisol for bedtime relaxation.
Look to chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts for omega-3s, and add pumpkin seeds to your meal to get some magnesium.
These slowly-digesting carbs add glucose to your diet to rebuild muscle. Fortified cereal provides B vitamins, and quinoa is a source of protein to keep blood sugar in check before bed. Additionally, oatmeal is packed with nutrition and is great for melatonin.
Chicken, beef, organ meats, and eggs are sources of B vitamins, including B12, which help metabolize sleep-disrupting cortisol.
Anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna have omega-3s to reduce inflammation. Tuna, salmon, and shrimp also have the benefit of high protein for blood sugar balance.
Nutritional yeast also has plenty of protein, plus B vitamins and amino acids.
Fermented and probiotic-rich foods aid digestion while helping regulate blood sugar. These include kimchi, sauerkraut, greek yogurt, kefir, and kombucha.
Here’s how to select the above foods mindfully to help you achieve your individual fitness goals:
Strength training recovery requires high levels of protein and a moderate amount of carbs.
After a late-night cardio workout, aim for a balance of protein and carbs. Since you’re likely breaking a sweat, try foods that relax your mind and body.
If your yoga is particularly exhausting as a strength and aerobic exercise, eat these:
You’ll want to bring down those stress hormones and reduce inflammation with adequate protein and carbs.
No matter which nutritious, sleep-friendly foods you eat after your nightly workout, these pointers will help you get optimum results from that combination of exercise, nutrition, and sleep:
It’s already so easy to wake up dehydrated and groggy, since your body is deprived of hydration for approximately eight hours overnight. So if you’re exercising before bed, it’s extra essential to stay hydrated.
It always helps to have the best water bottle for gym workouts that you never think twice about taking everywhere with you throughout the day and evening.
Knowing what’s good to eat at night after a workout is only the first step. Even those foods that are easiest on the stomach could still cause problems if you eat too much too fast after working out or if you go to bed immediately after eating.
Take a breather before chowing down and another rest period before laying down. How long to cool down before your post-exercise meal and how long you should wait to work out after eating depend on the type of food and exercise.
If you mindfully try any tasty combination of these fitness fuel foods, working out late is less likely to interrupt your sleep schedule.
Experiment to figure out what to do after a workout at night. It all comes down to what tastes good to you and nourishes your body while letting you wake up feeling invincible the next morning.
What’s your favorite stomach-friendly and nutritious snack for a solid night’s sleep?
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