Your body goes into a fasting stage when you sleep because you are not eating anything from dinner all the way until breakfast. Your body goes several hours without taking any food; to save energy for your vital organs and pertinent processes such as breathing, your body may start to break down its own muscle tissue -- a process called catabolism. During catabolism, proteins are broken down into their original amino acids and used as energy for the body’s vital processes. Eating a high-protein food just before going to bed may delay and even prevent some catabolism during sleep.
Cottage cheese is the best food to eat just before bedtime to prevent muscle catabolism because it has a special type of slow-releasing protein. The slow-releasing form of protein means your body is absorbing the amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, from the cottage cheese for several hours rather than all at once. This means after a few hours, when catabolism would normally kick in, you are still protected from it.
Tuna Packed in Water
A can of tuna is a great snack to have just before bedtime to delay catabolism. Tuna has a lot of the amino acid arginine, an amino acid which can trigger the linking of amino acids into proteins and possibly even help exercise performance. Tuna packed in water may be more beneficial than tuna in oil, as the fat from oil just before bedtime may leave you with an upset stomach or with difficulty falling asleep.
Turkey slices from the deli are an easy and quick food to grab just before bedtime if you’re busy and are anxious to get to bed. Turkey is generally high in protein. It is also rich in the specific amino acids tryptophan and arginine, which will help delay catabolism while you sleep.
String cheese has amino acids and a good amount of protein, which can delay catabolism during sleep. Cheese is full of essential amino acids, which the body cannot make on its own. Plus the quality of protein in cheese is absorbed by your body well since it comes from an animal source, so it is a good choice to delay catabolism.
Protein bars need no preparation and are easy to eat before going to bed. They usually have a lot of additives, however, so they are not the best source of amino acids before bedtime. Protein bars contain a combination of different protein sources such as whey, soy and casein.