Your muscle building efforts shouldn’t end with dinner.
If more mass is your goal and you find it harder and harder to pack it on, you may need to extend your healthy eating habits closer to bedtime.
Afraid of gaining fat? Well, if you’re stalling and plateauing with getting bigger and stronger, you shouldn’t shun nighttime feeding. As long as you keep things clean by ingesting mainly protein and healthy fat, you will give your body something to use to build muscle while you sleep.
These aren’t calorically-dense meals, mind you. They are small protein-rich snacks that are just enough to satisfy your needs and ward off catabolism (muscle breakdown). Best of all, they are simple, quick and easy!
1. Cottage Cheese and Almonds
Cottage cheese has been relegated down the protein list lately, largely due to the popularity of Greek yogurt, but it’s still one of the most effective and convenient sources of protein around.
Packed with both whey and casein forms of the muscle-building macronutrient, cottage cheese should be on the grocery list of anyone who craves variety in protein.
Almonds will not only provide you with all-important healthy fats, but they will also provide satiety and help slow the digestion of protein so you will create a trickle-like effect of amino acids. This will help as you sleep since your food intake halts and you are only left with the remaining food from your last meal.
Macros for 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese and 1 ounce of almonds:
- Calories: 327
- Protein: 34g
- Carbs: 11g
- Fat: 16g
2. Casein and Flax
If supplements are an option for you, then give casein a try. Casein protein powder provides a slow digesting form of protein so you will get a slow release of amino acids to last you through the night. This is evident when you mix the powder in water as it requires thorough mixing/blending to completely dissolve.
Flaxseed oil is another healthy fat, again, used for satiety and further slowing the digestion of protein powder. It also has some pretty impressive health benefits such as decreasing inflammation (for example, it can be used to help with rheumatoid arthritis) and lowering cholesterol. Simply add flaxseed oil to your casein protein shake.
Macros for 1 scoop (28 grams) of casein protein powder and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil:
- Calories: 221
- Protein: 20g
- Carbs: 3g
- Fat: 2g
3. Greek Chia Yogurt
You have to be living under a rock to miss hearing about the benefits of Greek yogurt. Loaded with live and active cultures to help with motility and digestion, the Greek variety boasts a significantly higher protein count than normal yogurt. This makes it a perfect muscle-building food without the unwanted calories.
Chia seeds have recently arrived in the health circle as a super food. Chock-full of benefits such as high in fiber, loaded with anti-oxidants, high in quality protein, and high in omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are small but pack a huge punch. Simply add the chia seeds to your yogurt.
Macros for 1 cup of Greek yogurt and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds:
- Calories: 180
- Protein: 23g
- Carbs: 14g
- Fat: 3g
4. Deviled Avocado Eggs
The egg is the quintessential protein source. Touted by many as the benchmark for protein, eggs are highly versatile and extremely convenient. Although there are many ways to prep eggs, hardboiling is a great portable option.
And yes, the yolk is considered safe and also helps regulate hormone levels and provide you with some essential fats.
Avocado is yet another power food mostly providing you with healthy fat. Versatile? Yes. Tasty? Oh yeah! Adding it to the yolk of an egg and seasoning to taste (such as relish, salt, etc.), avocado adds much better nutrition than the average deviled egg concoction.
Macros for 2 whole eggs and 2 ounces of avocado:
- Calories: 244
- Protein: 14g
- Carbs: 6g
- Fat: 18g
5. Whey Protein and Peanut Butter
Relatively cheap, convenient, available in many flavors, and easily digested, whey protein is a staple in many (if not most) gym-goers’ supplement regimens. Whey contains a superior amount of essential amino acids along with an ample supply of the coveted branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). Adding it to your menu is a no-brainer.
Natural peanut butter, or other healthy varieties such as almond, is a tasty way to get your healthy fats and have a little treat along the way. Adding natural peanut butter to anything somehow makes it taste better, but watch the calorie count, as it’s easy to go overboard. Add some to whey protein powder to make a pudding-like treat. Add a little water as needed.
Macros for 1 scoop (28 grams) of whey protein powder and 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter:
- Calories: 288
- Protein: 28g
- Carbs: 12g
- Fat: 16g