Want a bedtime snack? How about a nice big scoop of cottage cheese? It may not sound all that great but a new study finds that downing 30 grams of protein about half an hour before bedtime has a positive effect on muscle quality, metabolism and overall health. It’s one of the first studies that used real food instead of a protein shake or some other kind of supplement.
“Until now, we presumed that whole foods would act similarly to the data on supplemental protein, but we had no real evidence,” said Michael Ormsbee, an associate professor of nutrition, food and exercise studies at Florida State University. “This is important because it adds to the body of literature that indicates that whole foods work just as well as protein supplementation, and it gives people options for pre-sleep nutrition that go beyond powders and shaker bottles.”
Besides the beneficial effects on metabolism and muscle quality, the study found that a protein-rich snack did not result in an increase in body fat. The findings are published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In the study, active young women in their early 20s ate samples of cottage cheese 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Researchers specifically wanted to see if this food may have an impact on metabolic rate and muscle recovery.
Another of the researchers, Samantha Leyh, who is now a research dietitian with the Air Force, said the results serve as a foundation for future research on precise metabolic responses to whole food consumption.
“While protein supplements absolutely have their place, it is important to begin pooling data for foods and understanding the role they can play in these situations,” Leyh said. “Like the additive and synergistic effects of vitamins and minerals when consumed in whole food form such as fruits or veggies, perhaps whole food sources may follow suit. While we can’t generalize for all whole foods as we have only utilized cottage cheese, this research will hopefully open the door to future studies doing just that.”
Ormsbee said that his research team will start examining more pre-sleep food options and longer-term studies to learn more about the optimal food choices that can aid individuals in recovery from exercise, repair and regeneration of muscle and overall health.
“There is much more to uncover in this area of study,” he said.