A lot of people like to have a late night snack: whether that is because you think it helps you get to sleep or because you tend to wake up in the middle of the night and it helps you get back to sleep. Of course, many speculate that midnight snacks are not always the most nutritious, especially since most of us probably choose processed foods to sate the munchies.
Well, a new study suggests that simply switching up what you eat could actually make your late night snacks pretty good for you. Simply opting for 30 grams of whole-food protein could improve muscle quality, metabolism, and your general health.
Lead study author Dr. Michael Ormsbee, of Florida State University as well as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, comments, “Until now, we presumed that whole food would act similarly to the data on supplemental protein, but we had no real evidence. This is important because it adds to the body of literature that indicates that whole foods work just as well as protein supplementation, and it gives people options for presleep nutrition that go beyond powders and shaker bottles.”
Ok, but what, exactly, is “whole-food protein”?
Here is the short answer: cottage cheese.
Ormsbee goes on to explain that the study involved just 10 women with moderately active lifestyles (and with an average age of about 23 years). Between 30 and 60 minutes before bedtime, each woman consumed about cottage cheese (roughly 30g protein, 10g carbohydrates, 0g fat), or casein protein, or a placebo.
The study authors looked specifically to see if and how cottage cheese might have any impact on muscle recovery and metabolic rate.
Lead study author Samantha Leyh also notes, “While protein supplements absolutely have their place, it is important to begin pooling data for foods and understanding the role they can play in these situations.”
The former Florida State University graduate student is now a research dietitian with the US Air Force. She goes on to say, “Like the additive and synergistic effects of vitamins and minerals when consumed in whole food form such as fruits or veggies, perhaps whole food sources may follow suit.”
Dr. Ormsbee concludes by imparting that the next step is to examine more pre-sleep food variables over a longer period of time.
The result of this study has been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.