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In a 12-week study of 44 healthy young men, researchers at Maastrict University in the Netherlands tested the effects of a bedtime shake made up of 27.5 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbohydrates. Half of the group drank the shake, the other half drank a calorie-free placebo. The men all lifted weights three times a week.
Those who drank the protein shake showed significant upticks in both their strength and muscle size compared to the placebo group. The study was published in June 2015 in the Journal of Nutrition.
As Globe and Mail columnist Alex Hutchinson pointed out recently, previous research has shown that protein does build muscle. That said, the muscle-building effects max out at 20 to 30 grams at a time. Since many people overdo their protein consumption at dinner, it makes sense that shifting some protein intake to a bedtime snack, could improve that function. (And don't forget plant sources!)
Still, as Hutchinson writes, increased strength isn’t everything. And bedtime snacking doesn’t bear the same results when it comes to increasing endurance (hello, marathoners and triathletes).
For endurance, skip the snack
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) at the University of Australia have found benefits to training on a very empty stomach.
In this study, study published in the June 2015 Journal of Applied Physiology, seven cyclists were asked to do a session of high-intensity training after dinner. Some of the athletes went to bed without eating anything, others had a carbohydrate snack (all ate the same number of calories over the whole day). The next morning they were asked to do another, easier, bike ride.
Those who had not snacked scored better on endurance-related measures such as their ability to burn fat. As marathoners will know, the theory is that the better you are at burning your fat stores once your carbs are depleted, the longer you’ll be able run. The authors suggest the ideal training regimen might include heavier training in the evening after dinner, skipping a bedtime snack and doing a light workout in the morning.
Something to consider the next time you find yourself in front of the fridge at 9 p.m.
Read on for healthy snack ideas at home and on the go.