All those who take part in our bodybuilding culture spend a lot of time constructing and preparing the meals needed for necessary growth. Each meal is given priority based on the timing of it and the effects it will elicit. Take for example your post workout meal. This meal is designed to replenish the nutrients lost during your training and initiate muscle repair. It is also to replenish glycogen stores and set your body up for new growth.
One meal that often gets overshadowed by the importance of peri-workout nutrition is the last meal of the day. You have to remember; the meal you eat before going to sleep for the night is going to have to last you at least 6-8 hours because unless you get up through the night to eat, it is the only nutrients your body is going to attain for quite some time. Let’s dive in a little deeper as to why this meal is so important for hard-working bodybuilders alike.
Scenarios to consider:
When was your last meal?
If you are eating like a bodybuilder, chances are your last meal before this one was only roughly 2-3 hours ago. If that is the case then great. You don’t have to feel like you need to stuff yourself to make up for not eating on a regular schedule and you won’t then overeat. Simply continue with a serving of slow digesting protein such as cottage cheese and some healthy fats. However, if you have gone quite a while without nutrition, then you have a little work to do here to make up for it.
You are going to want to eat a few complex carbohydrates at this time such as high fibrous veggies to help control blood sugar levels as you sleep. Next, you’ll want to add some protein such as egg whites to help with the trickle effect of amino acids that you’ll want all through the night as you sleep. Finally, a serving of healthy fats such as natural peanut butter will help slow down digestion so that your body does not starve at all while you sleep.
Did you train late?
There are many trainers out there advocating the need for only a small meal before bed to avoid gaining any unwanted fat regardless of the situation. That being said, this practice could be very counterproductive if you’ve trained late in the evening. If this is the case, then your regular post workout nutrition is a must. You simply cannot go to bed malnourished in this scenario as all your hard work that night in the gym will be for nothing. If fat gain is a concern and it really shouldn’t be here, simply lower the portion of carbs you’re eating or switch it to a more complex source. Regardless, you cannot and should not avoid your regular post workout meal just because it is before you go to bed.
How long will you be sleeping for?
If you’re a bodybuilder or athlete, then you understand the importance of sleep. It is a time for recovery and growth. With that said, the recovery and growth can and will only occur if you’ve eaten properly before going to bed.
The recommended amount of sleep for a hard-working bodybuilder is anywhere from six to eight hours and more if you can. In the world of bodybuilding that’s a lot of time to go without eating so what you do before this is of the utmost importance. What you are going to want to do is design your last meal of the day so that it gives your body what it needs at that exact time but also for the duration of your sleep. Slow digesting proteins are going to be your best friend here along with a good dose of healthy fats. The slow digesting protein will create the aforementioned trickle effect with the amino acids, and the fat will slow down the rate at which your body metabolizes the food. So rather than having all your food used up after only 2-3 hours as it is during the day, it takes much longer and hopefully lasts until you can get up and make your first meal of the new day.
Are you in a mass phase?
If putting on size and sheer mass is your priority, then you can give yourself a little leeway here in your last meal. It is always important to consume quality nutrients every chance you get, and if you’re trying to put on weight, your last meal is no exception. However, I think it is alright to give yourself a little “treat” if you will during this meal as a nice reward for your hard work. Don’t go overboard and put away an entire pizza or anything like that but if you’ve been craving some sweets or something like that, some sugar-free chocolate pudding or even a little piece of chocolate is not going to hurt you. It will satisfy your cravings and give you a nice calming effect just before heading off to bed.
Are you in a cutting phase?
Stripping away unwanted body fat can sometimes be a long and arduous task. The last thing you want to do is jeopardize your efforts by consuming something that is going to sit all night eventually storing itself as fat. So what you want to do here is consume some medium-fast protein sources such as whole eggs so that you get the quick digesting egg whites coupled with the slower digesting yolks to make for a perfect, muscle sparing, fat inducing scenario.
Should you get up to eat?
I’m not a believer in getting up during the night to feed. I think it interferes too much with the importance of your rest and creates a problematic scenario for your metabolism causing you to take much longer to get back to sleep than it should. Also, eating in the middle of the night could dampen the rise in natural growth hormone you should be taking advantage of while resting and limit your ability to recover and grow. Simply put, with enough emphasis put on your final meal of the day, there should be no need to get up and re-feed when you should be sleeping.
How about supplements?
One of the strategic times to take my supplements is right before I go to bed. I look at it as a chance for the key supplements I use to do their magic while I sleep. Here are the products I use from to set myself up for new muscle growth:
Your last meal of the day should never become an afterthought and should be given just as much priority as any other scheduled meal you have for yourself. I always tell my students and clients to think of yourself as a seed at this time. Properly nourished and a little time will make that seed grow and grow to its fullest potential. The same is true for your body. Get accustomed to the idea of creating an environment before sleep that is conducive to growth, and you will wake up each day a new person because of what you did the night before.