What To Do If You Practice Late at Night To Help Recovery

Are you an athlete or swimmer that trains right before bedtime? Are you interested in learning about what types of foods to eat when you practice late at night? Then you are in the right place. You probably have a ton of questions regarding food, the timing of meals after a workout, and if it is actually bad to eat a meal so close to bedtime.

Does the timing of your workout matter?

Exercising boosts adrenaline and increases your heart rate and body temperature as well as your overall health and well-being. Exercise increases endorphins, the “feel-good hormones”, that help to decrease stress. 

The timing of your workout depends on the individual. Some people enjoy working out later in the day (after work) to relieve stress. While others may need to stop exercising two to four hours before bed in order to be able to sleep at night. It is all personal preference. 

Unfortunately, most swimmers and club teams generally train in the evening between 5 PM-9 PM. So when are you supposed to get a good meal if you are practicing so late? 

Good foods to eat late at night

If you exercise during the evening you should have a good pre-and post-workout snack or meal. Eat what you normally would after a workout unless you haven’t had dinner. Each meal should include protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and good healthy fats. 

Think about keeping your meal in the evening light. Eating something heavy will leave your stomach feeling uncomfortable and may disrupt your sleep. Descend your carbohydrates throughout the day (most in AM, least in PM) as we do not need to fuel our bodies to sleep at night. A great meal to have in the evening is salmon, asparagus, and quinoa. The exact amount of protein, veggies, and carbohydrates depends on the individual and the workout you completed. If you did a lighter workout then you don’t have to eat a huge meal, but you want to make sure you are eating enough calories for your body! Everybody is different so it’s extremely important to portion your plate to your needs. ​​

The amount of carbohydrates you consume depends on what kind of sport you are doing. If you are endurance based (running, swimming, cycling) you exhaust more glycogen stores and will need to replenish more. If you are resistance training you may not need as many carbohydrates. Some great sources of carbohydrates are quinoa, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, dark leafy green vegetables, and sweet potatoes. Stay away from refined and heavily processed carbohydrates. These are the ones that will increase your body’s inflammation, make you feel gross, and slow down your recovery process. 

Healthy fats promote regeneration by decreasing inflammation and increasing your immunity. Fats create no adverse effects on your body, glycogen stores, or muscles after training. Consider some of these good sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds. 

If you are done with practice between 6-7 PM and tend to eat bigger portions after you eat your dinner, wait 20-30 minutes and have a glass of water. You might not be hungry for more like you think you are. Let your body properly digest your food before going for seconds. If you are still hungry after that waiting period, go right ahead and have a little more. It’s important to note that your food has to be digested before bed, 45-60 minutes. You can allow yourself to have a high-protein snack like greek yogurt or a slow-release casein protein powder to make into a shake to prevent your body from going into starvation mode while you’re sleeping. 

Something else to consider when you practice late in the evening and for any workout that you have is the magic recovery time window after a workout. You should eat something within 30 minutes of completing a workout to replenish your energy, regain the nutrients lost, and start-up muscle recovery. When you do any physical activity your muscles deplete energy, and glycogen, and are broken down or damaged during training sessions. The body needs to replenish the glycogen reserves and repair the damaged muscle proteins. Adding proper nutrition after a workout will help your body recover quickly in the 30-minute time window. Think about eating something that has equal carbohydrates and equal protein to restore your glycogen levels and repair your muscles. Greek yogurt and an apple, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese and fruit, a protein bar, or a protein shake that has equal amounts of carbs and protein are great examples. In turn, this will help speed up your body’s recovery process and nourish your body with the food it needs after practice.

In conclusion, if you are exercising late at night, fueling your body properly after can help repair your muscles, and restore your glycogen stores and your body’s nutrients. Be sure you are getting equal carbohydrates and protein in that 30-minute magic window and eating a light meal before bed that contains protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. When you fuel your body well you will see your hard work pay off in training and when the time comes for you to compete. 

Beine Wellness Building hopes you enjoyed reading this informational blog about what to eat when you practice late at night and that you can implement some of our recommendations into your daily routine. You are welcome to reach out with other training-specific questions or with anything that you would like answered on the blog. Happy fueling and training!

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