If you’re hungry just before hitting the hay, what is the healthiest late-night snack you can have without worrying about weight gain?

If you have to have a snack before bed, make it a protein-rich one.

According to new Florida State University-led study, in physically active women (women weight lifters) protein consumption before bed compared to protein consumption during the day does not disturb overnight belly fat metabolism or whole-body fat burn.

Night-time snacks don’t have to make you fat

“For far too long, people have been led to believe that eating before bed causes metabolic disturbances and will make them gain fat,” says study author Michael Ormsbee, an associate professor in the College of Human Sciences and the associate director of the FSU Institute of Sports Sciences & Medicine.

“However, the data simply does not support this when the food we choose to eat before bed is protein-based and small in size.”

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Ormsbee and his team used two experimental conditions to investigate fat metabolism in a sample of women weight trainers.

In one condition, the study participants drank a casein protein shake 30 minutes after a workout and a taste-matched placebo shake 30 minutes before bed. In the other condition, the participants drank the shakes in the reverse order.

“We wanted to investigate how drinking a protein shake before bed influenced overnight metabolism of fat in fit women as compared to taking that protein shake at another time of day,” says Ormsbee.

To assess the full, multistep process of overnight fat metabolism, the researchers first documented participants’ lipolysis – or fat release from fat cells – in order to determine whether the timing of protein consumption was linked to cells’ ability to unleash stored fat into the surrounding tissue.

Then, the team used breath sample measurements to evaluate participants’ fat oxidation, or their bodies’ capacity to burn the fat released as energy in the muscles.

Protein paired with exercise triggers cells to release fat

Scientists have long known that protein consumption paired with exercise can help trigger the release of fat by cells.

This is according to co-author and former FSU doctoral student Brittany Allman.

The team’s measurements revealed that, for women who lift weights, the well-known benefits of a nighttime, high-protein snack far outweigh the costs.

“In women who weight train, there are no differences in overnight local belly fat metabolism or whole-body fat burn whether you eat protein in the form of a protein shake during the day post-workout or at night presleep,” says Allman. “So, essentially, you can eat protein before bed and not disturb fat metabolism.”

“There are such bad misconceptions about eating at night, that it will ‘make me gain weight’ or ‘slow my metabolism’,” she said. “The research suggests that that really only holds true if you’re eating a ton of calories and they are carbohydrate- and/or fat-laden. There are so many potential beneficial effects of eating protein at night, and it will be extremely important to take all of this science to the community to try to change the outlook of these dietary habits.”

Source: Florida State University via www.sciencedaily.com

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.