When you're working out, figuring out what to eat, and more importantly when to eat it, can be confusing. If you're trying out a new evening workout regime, you're probably wondering whether you should eat at night before you go to bed.
You should eat a meal or snack with carbs and protein within the two-hour period after your evening workout.
Read more: How to Exercise at Night to Lose Weight
Food as Fuel
According to the American Council on Exercise, working out later in the day may mean that you have more power and better performance than if you were to work out in the morning. Your strength is at its peak, your muscles are warmer and more flexible, your reaction time is shorter, your blood pressure and resting heart rate are lower and so is your perceived exertion.
Food plays an important role in fueling your performance and helping you reap the benefits of your workout. What time you eat is just as important as what you eat. An August 2017 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition states that timing your meals properly can help improve muscle recovery and tissue repair, enhance muscle protein synthesis and boost your mood as well.
For your evening workout, you should plan your day such that you can eat before and after you exercise. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that you need to eat before you work out because your body cannot run, lift weights, swim or jump without energy. Exercising after eating is linked to better workout performance than exercising on an empty stomach.
Eating after you exercise is equally important. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating a meal with both carbs and protein within two hours of your workout to help replace your glycogen stores and speed up muscle recovery.
While most people associate working out with protein, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that carbs are equally important. Carbohydrates are the major source of fuel for your muscles; your body converts carbohydrates to glycogen, which is stored in your muscles and helps them perform movements and exercise.
A September 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition notes that not eating after a workout does you no favors and could in fact be detrimental.
Post-Workout Meal Suggestions
You can plan your meals depending on what time you normally work out in the evening. If you work out fairly early, you can just eat your dinner afterward. Your meal should have both protein and carbs, as well as fiber and other essential nutrients. If you eat meat, you can pair chicken, fish, turkey or eggs with mashed potatoes and a salad. If you're vegetarian, you can opt for quinoa or tofu with grilled vegetables.
If you prefer to exercise later in the night, you can have a light dinner and then eat a post-workout snack or beverage when you're done. The Mayo Clinic suggests a smoothie, a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt with some fruit or low-fat chocolate milk with pretzels.
Read more: 10 Irresistible Weight-Loss Smoothie Recipes
Apart from food, you also need to replenish your bodily fluids to prevent dehydration. The Mayo Clinic says you should drink approximately 2 to 3 cups of water for every pound of weight you lose during the workout.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Council on Exercise: “The Best Time to Exercise”
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Nutrient Timing”
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “How to Fuel Your Workout”
- Mayo Clinic: “Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips to Maximize Your Workouts”
- Frontiers in Nutrition: “Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training”