You’ve finished up a long day, which included a tough training session, and you’re about to shut it down for the night when all of a sudden you get that persistent rumbling in your stomach that won’t go away. You might drink some water thinking that’ll take care of it, but your body continues to make noises that sound like something straight out of Jurassic Park. You finally look around in the fridge and pantry, searching for that perfect late night snack, but nothing sounds good or maybe there’s nothing healthy to reach for. You trained extra hard, so maybe you just end up giving in and eating that leftover slice of pizza (or something equally heavy) and end up feeling guilty, maybe even going to bed with an upset stomach.
First of all, it’s important to not beat yourself up over it. A lot of people will eat one unhealthy snack or meal and proceed to punish themselves over it for not being ‘disciplined’ enough, even though it was only one bad thing over the course of an entire week. After all, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll develop a dose of the midnight munchies every night from here on out unless you’re not getting enough calories throughout the day, leaving you with a large caloric deficit.
But is it even a good idea to eat a snack late at night? The short answer is yes, but only if you’re reaching for something healthy rather than junk. Contrary to popular belief, our metabolisms don’t shut down completely at night, and so long as you’re choosing something on the healthier side, you shouldn’t have to worry about packing on the pounds when you occasionally eat something long after the sun goes down.
And what should you eat so that you don’t have to deal with the massive dose of guilt that sometimes goes along with late night refrigerator raids in your jammies? There are several reasonably healthy late night snacks out there that won’t make you feel like you’ve wrecked your workout and nutritional progress, and some may actually be helpful in aiding sleep and proper digestion. Foods containing tryptophan, melatonin, potassium and magnesium can help with night time satiety.Tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin, so it can play an important role in helping you achieve a restful night’s sleep.
So, next time you get that late night urge for something snacky, try one of these guys on for size:
Pistachios in their raw form are delicious, and they also pack a good nutritional punch! They are fairly low calorie, and contain healthy fats, protein, potassium, magnesium, and as a bonus: melatonin, making them a great choice if you have a salty night time craving. As long as you’re sticking to a single serving (about 49 kernels), you’ll have the perfect snack to satisfy your hunger and help you drift off into dreamland.
Banana and Almond Butter
Eating even half a banana with some almond butter is a great balance because you’re getting potassium along with some protein and fat from the almond butter, which also contains magnesium. Bananas are a prebiotic food, which can aid in promoting a healthy gut and potentially a healthier sleep cycle. So, this satisfying snack will help fill you up while also giving you some of the important nutrients that help contribute to a good night’s sleep.
Raspberries often don’t receive the attention they deserve, but they are indeed a superfood! Not only are they one of the lowest calorie and lowest sugar fruits out there, they are also a great source of natural melatonin. Not to mention, these little gems are high in fiber and they will give you a good burst of vitamin C to help boost immunity and support a healthy sleep cycle.
Cheese is one of the easiest healthy late night snacks out there because you don’t have to do much, if anything, to prepare it. Dairy contains tryptophan (a precursor to melatonin) and string cheese is a great option because it’s already pre-portioned so that you’re less likely to overeat it. You can also pair the cheese with a slice of turkey breast for some added protein and tryptophan.
Walnuts are nutritional powerhouses, and a great source of healthy fat and antioxidants. Not only do they help with satiety, they can also help you catch some Z’s. Their calories do add up quickly, so try not to go for more than one serving before you hit the hay. One serving is around 14 halves. They contain potassium, magnesium, and are high in melatonin.
Tart cherries aka Montmorency cherries, have been praised for their health benefits, especially when it comes to sleep. They contain good amounts of tryptophan and anthocyanins, which may help with melatonin production and also extend the effects of the melatonin, helping a person stay asleep longer. Tart cherries have also been part of multiple research studies for their potential to reduce inflammation and promote muscle recovery in runners and athletes after intense workouts with some promising results. If you’re in an area where you’re able to find them, they are your best bet, but you can also find them in juice form. Just make sure that you choose 100% juice with no added sugar.
Making sure you’re getting enough calories throughout the day with regular meals is key, especially if you’re training extra hard. Your body breaks down glycogen much more quickly when you’re exercising versus being sedentary, so making sure you have enough fuel is essential. Blood sugar dips often happen late at night, so if you’re able to eat a small snack that is also nutritious, you should feel satiated and primed for a good night of rest and recovery.