Nutrition plays a pivotal role in getting results from your training program, whether it's faster weight loss, greater muscle growth, or enhanced recovery.
Not only what you eat, but when you eat can also improve your results. If you’re serious about your fitness, there’s a good chance that you’re already dabbling a bit with nutrient timing, such as taking a serving of pre-workout before training and/or having a whey protein shake after a workout.
But, directly before and after training isn't the only opportunities to provide our bodies with the crucial nutrients it needs. Eating before bed can give a boost to our bodies while we sleep. Plus, going to bed feeling hungry can also lead to restlessness, which hinders recovery and growth.
With that in mind, here are the best healthy late-night snacks for muscle growth, fat loss, and recovery.
Late Night Snacks for Weight Loss
Weight loss is ultimately about balancing energy intake (how much food you eat) versus energy expenditure. To facilitate weight loss, you need to be consistently burning more calories than you consume. Do this long enough, and you will lose weight.
We should also mention that there are no “magic” foods or snacks for weight loss. By that, we mean that no single food (or combination) of foods will make you lose fat if you’re consuming too many calories.
So, how can you have a late-night snack for weight loss?
You have foods that are filling and nutritious yet low in calories. This helps you to go to bed with a happy belly while adhering to your calorie goals for the day.
Greek Yogurt and Berries
Greek yogurt is packed with protein and calcium, which supports muscle recovery and bone health. Berries are rich in polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals, which do a body good.
So why is this in the category for “weight loss?”
Because this combination is also packed with protein and fiber -- both of which help keep hunger at bay. This is also low in calories yet highly satiating.
Hummus + Whole Grain Toast
Hummus is made with chickpeas, which are rich in B vitamins. One of the main roles of B-vitamins is to help your body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and produce energy. Chickpeas and whole-grain toast also contain fiber, which, as we mentioned above, helps keep you feeling full and thereby less likely to wake up with the munchies in the middle of the night.
Almonds + Pomegranate Juice
Almonds are rich in tryptophan and magnesium, which can help you relax and get to sleep. They're also high in fiber and protein, further helping to squash those late-night hunger cravings.
100% Pomegranate juice is high in antioxidants and contains no added sugar, preservatives, or fillers.
Late Night Snacks for Muscle Growth
When you're focused on muscle growth, you need to be concerned about pushing for progressive overload in your workouts and consuming enough protein and total calories to support the muscle-building process.
As we mentioned above, there are no "magic" foods for muscle growth with weight loss. It's about consuming enough quality calories and protein at the end of the day. And, when you're focused on building muscle, your calorie needs are considerably higher when trying to lose weight.
It can be a challenge for many people to eat enough during the day. Having a bedtime snack that is high in protein can help you get in all the required macros and calories needed to support muscle growth effectively.
Here are some of our favorite snacks for muscle growth:
Cottage Cheese + Frozen Cherries
No surprise here.
Cottage cheese has been a staple bedtime snack of gym rats for decades. This is because cottage cheese is high in casein protein, a very slow-digesting protein that provides a steady release of amino acids into the bloodstream. At the same time, you sleep, promoting a more anabolic environment.
Cherries are rich in phytonutrients that support muscle recovery, combat inflammation, and may improve sleep. The better sleep you get, the more rested you'll be, and therefore be able to push harder in your subsequent workouts.
PB Sandwich and Milk
Is there any more classic combination than a peanut butter sandwich with a tall glass of cold milk next to it?
Peanut butter is rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Milk is rich in calcium and highly bioavailable protein (including casein and whey protein). Combined, they provide the body with the carbs, protein, and calories needed to support muscle recovery and growth.
Note: if you can’t have peanut butter, feel free to swap it with almond butter or any other nut butter of choice.
This might seem like a strange pre-bed snack, but the truth is told, not everyone craves something sweet before bed. Salmon is a perfect pre-bed snack as it's high in protein and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory benefits and cognitive benefits.
Late Night Snacks to Improve Recovery
Tart cherries or tart cherry juice are packed with bioactive compounds that may help improve recovery and sleep. These micronutrient powerhouses also possess anti-inflammatory properties and may offer support against inflammation-related conditions like arthritis and heart disease.
Research has found that consuming 8 ounces of 100% helped individuals sleep roughly one and a half hours more at night than the placebo group.
Tart cherries also contain a compound called procyanidin B-2 which is involved in the production of melatonin -- the hormone that governs the sleep-wake cycle.
Kiwis are one of the few foods that contain a decent amount of serotonin, which can improve mood and promote relaxation, thereby helping you fall asleep faster. Serotonin is also known to help curb carb cravings.
Research has found that consuming kiwi an hour before bed may help decrease how long it takes to fall asleep while increasing sleep quality and duration.
As a bonus, two peeled kiwis contain a paltry 93 calories, all the while supplying 5 grams of belly-filling fiber to help keep you feeling full during the night.
Consuming sufficient protein each day is essential to optimal recovery. However, many people struggle to eat enough protein each day, and the last thing most people want to eat right before bed is a big piece of chicken or steak.
Enter the ever-versatile protein smoothie.
Smoothies are a fantastic way to get in a lot of nutrition without making yourself feel stuffed (which could disrupt your sleep).
For a tropical bedtime treat, you can whip up a smoothie containing one serving of frozen pineapple, a scoop of SteelFit® Steel Whey® (or Steel Vegan™), and a cup of milk. As a bonus, pineapple has been shown to boost melatonin!
Having a late-night snack can help you sleep better, and better sleep is something most of us need.
If you're looking for a healthy late-night snack, try any or all of the above and let us know which is your favorite, or if you have a favorite snack not included on this list.
Also, while the snacks are grouped into "weight loss" or "muscle growth," feel free to try them even if your goal is opposite where the snack is listed (we won't tell anyone.). Remember, at the end of the day, weight loss is about managing calorie intake, and if a "muscle building" snack helps you stay full all the while staying at or under your calorie goals, it's a win!
And, one last thing, if you’re looking for added support in achieving your weight loss or muscle-building goals, make sure to check out our line of best-selling supplements specifically formulated to help you make the most of your hard work in the gym and the kitchen.
- Losso JN, Finley JW, Karki N, Liu AG, Prudente A, Tipton R, Yu Y, Greenway FL. Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. Am J Ther. 2018 Mar/Apr;25(2):e194-e201. DOI: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000000584. PMID: 28901958; PMCID: PMC5617749.
- Lin HH, Tsai PS, Fang SC, Liu JF. Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2011;20(2):169-74. PMID: 21669584.