Benefits of an Evening or Late Night Workout
Working out in the evening or late at night might be the only option some of us have! Not everyone wants to join the 5 AM club or has the option of exercising in the morning. There are some benefits to a night workout in case you were wondering before we get into those post workout snacks.
- You’ll sleep better. If you have trouble sleeping at night, a good strength training session to fatigue the muscles might help.
- You are at your peak performance. There is some scientific evidence that suggests that early evening is the body’s peak performance as well as peak core body temperature.
- Cortisol levels are higher in the morning. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released anytime extra stress is put on the body. That includes exercises. Elevated cortisol for long periods of time can lead to weight gain. Cortisol levels are increased in the morning upon awakening. Might be a good excuse to hit that snooze button!
So, if those evening or night workouts are your only choice, go for it! Remember though, just as it’s important to get that exercise in, it’s equally important to fuel your body after for recovery.
It doesn’t have to be an entire meal as long you’re still getting in some key nutrients. So, let’s get into the science behind choosing post workout snacks for late night workouts.
Post Workout Nutrition for Optimal Recovery
After doing a workout a night, it might be tempting to skip the post workout snack, but it’s essential to your recovery for three reasons.
Muscle Protein Synthesis
After working out, the muscles need protein to start repairing the torn muscle fibers. Muscle Protein Synthesis is increased after intense exercises and can last up to 36 hours. This is the prime time that your muscles are active in recovery.
Muscle Protein Breakdown
While Muscle Protein Synthesis is occurring, Muscle Protein Breakdown is countering that. This refers to the breakdown of muscle tissue due to exercise. Essentially, muscles are breaking down for energy.
Muscle Glycogen Synthesis
Glycogen refers to how the body stores glucose and it can be used as energy for later. That energy is used during exercise. So it’s equally important to replenish those glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.
For those late night workouts, you want a post workout snack that is going to be light on the stomach but also allow recovery for muscles overnight. It’s important to get a post workout snack with carbs and protein.
Fast Digesting Carbs
For optimal muscle glycogen replenishment choose a fast digesting carbohydrate.
- Low in Fibre. Fibre slows the release of blood glucose, slowing down muscle glycogen replenishment.
- Not too high in Fructose. Fructose has to be converted to glucose upon digestion and usually replenishes liver glycogen stores prior to muscle glycogen.
- Low in Fat. Fat slows the release of blood glucose.
Why do you want a fast digesting carb?
When you eat carbs, your blood sugar rises in response. Depending on the carb, dictates how fast or slow. The pancreas will produce insulin based on the increased glucose. Through the help of the insulin, the liver cells produce an enzyme called glycogen synthase, which link glucose chains together. Through the increase of glucose and insulin, glycogen is delivered to the liver and muscles for storage.
Fast digesting carbs allow for quick replenishment of glycogen stores for overnight recovery.
5 Post Workout Snacks at Night
Now that you know the benefits from evening or night workouts, and have a basic understanding of the best options for snacks, I’ll present you with my personal top 5 post workout snacks at night. These are meant to be consumed if bedtime is within 60 to 90 minutes.
Greek Yogurt or Cottage Cheese with Fruit
A good non fat greek yogurt or 1/2 cup of cottage cheese with fruit is my first pick. Pineapple is higher in carbs than most other fruits and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Try adding a cup of pineapple slices for a tasty sweet post workout snack. It’s not overfilling but quite satisfying.
Tuna on Crackers
Those Starkist tuna packs hold about 17 grams of protein, perfect for stimulating protein synthesis, and taste delicious on some crackers. Normally I’d promote whole grain cracker for the health benefits, but this is your opportunity to maximize those refined carbs so enjoy those white crackers.
Banana and Peanut Butter
Even though, peanut butter on a banana is more inbetween slow and fast digestion wise, I find it to be a highly effective post workout snack at night. Bananas are high in potassium, which help prevent muscle cramps and help aid in soreness. Maybe save this snack for those higher intensity workouts. You’ll thank me in the morning.
And yes, peanut butter is actually good for you. If you stay away from the overly processed ones that have fully hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients.
Chia Seed Parfait
This is slowly becoming a staple in my refrigerator. I mix a cup of almond milk with 3 tablespoons of chia seeds and allow to sit for a few hours. Add in some fruit and a scoop of protein powder and you have a great snack! It’s also full of antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids.
This snack would best be had after a low or moderate intensity exercise.
Sometimes I want something simple I can mix up, so I opt for a protein shake low in carbs that I can mix with Almond milk and a fruit. Whey protein is a fast digesting protein perfect for protein synthesis, easily digested in 1 to 3 hours.
The most important thing to remember is finding something that works for you! I always have a protein shake after I do evening workouts. It’s easy and I remember it. It’s become a habit. Maybe you’ll find something that becomes a habit for you as well, or maybe you’re one that likes to switch it up every night!
Whatever the case, it has to work for your lifestyle. Plan ahead and do it!
What are your favorite post workout snacks at night?
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