9 Best Muscle-Building Foods For The Late Night Heavy Lifter24/02/2018
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Nutrition has become more complicated than it should be.
No carbs after 6pm? XYZ food makes you fat? Sugar is bad for you?
The fact is,
You can safely build muscle irrespective of the claims people throw around regardless of when and what you eat (within reason).
However, for the night owls among us, or those who prefer to hit up their ‘Iron Mecca’ well into the evening, the REAL question that crops up is:
What to eat after a workout at night?
This is especially pressing if you’ve just smashed a PB or have physically crawled out of the gym to your car from a torturous leg workout.
We’re here to lay down 9 of the best foods to consume post-workout after a late night gym session to stifle the beast within, and to satisfy those hunger pains you’ve put yourself through for maximum recovery.
What the f*ck to eat bro?
Ideally, you should be eating slow digesting protein and carb-based foods to repair your muscles as you sleep. The goal is to aid protein synthesis and replenish your glycogen levels through low-glycemic load foods.
Also, adding in some fats (the right kind) is highly beneficial as it will ensure you’re kept fuller for longer and will help with maintaining a healthy metabolism and boosting hormone production.
Foods to eat post-workout may include the following:
#1 – Chicken
Chicken is a staple to any bodybuilder’s post-workout fuel and is an excellent source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids to repair damaged tissue and build lean muscle.
Not only this, chicken is also low in saturated and trans fat – that’s if you don’t buy it from KFC and grill it yourself at home.
A 4 ounce chicken (100g in weight) contains roughly 30g of protein and is an absolute no-brainer to delve into after a heavy gym session at night.
It’s overall versatility means you can have it with any sides including rice, roasted vegetables and more which can be prepared in a matter of minutes.
#2 – Salmon
If you’ve maxed out your redemption rewards on your Nando’s loyalty card and Santiago at the front till is sick of you walking into the restaurant in your sweaty Gymshark clothes, salmon is another excellent muscle-building food to devour.
With 20g of protein found in a 100g serving, salmon is a rich and nutritious food to consume after a late workout.
High in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D levels, salmon will ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs to build muscle effectively and help your joints and tendons recover from clattering weights all night.
If that wasn’t enough:
Salmon is a lot more calorie dense than the majority of white fish varieties (such as tilapia and cod) so will play a key role in helping you remain fuller for longer and reaching your daily caloric intake whatever that may be for you.
Perfect before hitting the sack.
Salmon goes great with some potatoes and vegetables followed by a drizzle of lemon so be sure to get this in you.
#3 – Tuna
Like it’s salmon counterpart, tuna is a muscle-building powerhouse packing up to 30g of protein per 145g serving.
The best part is:
It is low in both carbs and fat which is great for those who are looking to lose weight or lean bulk.
Tuna has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
This is crucial to keep your physique in top form and reduce your risk of arthritis, heart disease and other ailments.
In particular, tuna is also potent in the mineral selenium which has been shown to defend against oxidative stress on the body.
A bonus of tuna is that it’s relatively inexpensive and can be eaten straight out of a can.
If you’re strapped for time or don’t want anything too fancy, a tuna salad sandwich on wholegrain bread is a great choice to have at night.
#4 – Eggs
Despite getting a bad rap over the years, eggs are a must for your post-workout fuel.
Heck, if Rocky Balboa is able to back raw eggs and get ripped as shit then that’s all the evidence you need.
Even if Rocky was Balboa was to drink a raw glass of human feces mixed with a few acai berries, it would almost certainly be the next fitness fad (thank God it isn’t).
However, rather than look like a complete cock with egg yolk hanging off your face, cooked eggs is what you should be gunning for.
There’s no evidence to suggest that raw eggs are more superior to cooked eggs and vice versa, it’s just a safer bet from a health perspective.
Eggs are a good source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and have a high biological value which means they are readily absorbed by your body as it contains all essential amino acids.
The best part?
You almost certainly won’t be asking yourself what to eat after a workout at night as eggs are cheap, versatile and portable which makes them a great choice to cook up.
They’re also filled with key vitamins and minerals such as biotin, zinc, iron and B-complex vitamins – a haven for making some serious late night gains when you nod off.
#5 – Avocados
Still struggling as to what to eat after a workout at night?
Give avocados a go.
Avocados are an excellent healthy fat source and made up of a unique nutritional profile which include high levels of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals such as B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, E, K, magnesium and potassium.
The average-sized avocado contains roughly 240 calories, 10g of fiber and 15g of monounsaturated fat (which has been proven to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels).
Whilst it is not exactly high in protein, avocados do make a good food choice to keep your hunger cravings at bay in the middle of the night and will ensure you are getting enough good fat in your diet for muscular growth.
#6 – Nuts and nut butters
Whilst we’re on the subject of fat and what to eat after a workout at night, a good quality nut butter is my absolute go-to.
Peanuts, cashews, almonds – it makes no difference. Nuts are rich in healthy unsaturated fats and are a great way to add some much needed protein to your diet.
For instance, 100g of peanuts contains roughly 20-30g of protein which is perfect for a post-workout snack.
But wait – there’s more:
With nut butters especially, you can throw a dollop in your smoothie or on some oats, spread it on some wholegrain bread or simply eat it out of the tub (for fat cunts like me).
The fact is,
You get all the benefits of eating raw nuts in a more convenient way.
They’re also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, niacin, potassium, selenium and iron.
The high content of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will also help with overall testosterone secretion for men during sleep.
So, if you want more late night gains – eat some nuts and nut butter!
Check out our supplement reviews section for some of the best nut butters we’ve tried and tested.
#7 – Sweet Potatoes
No diet is ever complete without some carbs.
Enter sweet potatoes.
Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes boast a much lower glycemic index.
This means that it will release glucose (sugar) throughout your body more slowly, giving you a more sustained level of energy without spiking your insulin levels too drastically, which is what you need before going to sleep.
For the newbies reading, insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas to utilise glucose as energy.
Whilst having simple carbs with a high glycemic index is beneficial post-workout, if you’re looking to sleep in the next hour or so, it would be best to stick to complex carbs for the purposes of getting a good night’s kip.
There’s nothing worse than spiking your insulin before you sleep only to find yourself convulsing like a rogue crack addict.
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of the compound beta carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) which plays a key role in immunity, healthy cell growth and maintaining adequate sugar levels. All crucial factors to building muscle effectively.
Carbs after a certain hour of the day will not lead to fat gain. Period.
If you’ve worked your arse off in the gym and eat carbs right after, they will be put to good use regardless of the time of day (just keep an eye on your total calories consumed).
Don’t fear à la sweet potatoes.
#8 – Beans and legumes
When people typically think of what to eat after a workout at night, immediately they’ll think of lean cuts of meat.
What most don’t realise is that beans and legumes are a healthy and cheap vegetarian food source for building lean muscle mass.
Despite being a low biological food (that is, not containing all essential amino acids), when eaten in combination with other varieties, beans and legumes can pack a mean protein punch.
Not only this,
Beans and legumes are also high in fiber which is important for overall gut health and for keeping you full at night.
They’re also a rich source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants which contain little to no fat and are cholesterol-free, unlike meat.
All-in-all, beans and legumes require very minimal prep time and can be eaten with some of the other foods in this list for a nutritious bodybuilding meal.
This may include throwing some cooked lentils with grilled chicken breast or salmon with vegetables topped off with some lemon juice.
#9 – Leafy green vegetables
It goes without saying:
Including some leafy green vegetables in your diet (regardless of the time of day), is an absolute no-brainer.
They’re jam packed with vitamins, mineral and antioxidants which are key for keeping your body functioning optimally.
In particular, a handful of spinach, kale or broccoli are some of the best vegetables to eat after a workout at night.
Your body can’t build lean muscle with protein alone as it is a complex mechanism that also relies on vitamins and minerals such as calcium, folic acid, iron, vitamin A, C, E, K and many more to complete it’s basic metabolic processes.
Together, the vitamins and minerals found in leafy green vegetables are vital for muscle contractions, the production of red blood cells, controlling inflammation, reducing oxidative stress and more which all help with building muscle.
One pigment in particular which is prevalent in leafy green vegetables which can’t be found in any other group of vegetables is chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is vital for photosynthesis allowing plants to absorb energy from sunlight. When it is ingested by the body, it has numerous benefits including detoxification of the blood, stimulating the immune system and providing energy.
Therefore, if you want to optimise your progress, including some leafy green vegetables in your nutritional program is crucial.
Bonus: #10 – Casein Protein
Although this is not strictly a food, casein protein is arguably the best protein supplement to take at night after a heavy lifting session.
Micellar casein is derived from milk and is a slow-digesting protein that contains all essential amino acids for muscular repair and growth.
Because of its slow absorption rate (due to its insolubility), it releases muscle-building amino acids at a lower level over a prolonged period of time making it an ideal choice to consume before bed.
Your body is fasting as you sleep, so micellar casein can help with preventing muscular breakdown which is why casein is often referred to as an “anti-catabolic”.
On average, 1 scoop of micellar casein protein powder can contain up to 24g of protein and is an ideal supplement for improving your recovery time and is a quality source of protein which often goes under most people’s radar.
So, if you’re looking to build lean muscle mass effectively, give micellar casein a shot.
Wrapping it up
There you have it – 9 of the best foods to eat after a workout at night (including one bonus supplement).
Building muscle is a relatively simple process: lift heavy, eat well and rest even more and you won’t fail in noticing a difference.
Often times people will begin to over-complicate things by focusing on the latest trends without sticking to the basics.
Don’t do this.
Keep it simple, stupid. Especially when it comes to fueling your body.
Joseph is the Founder and Editor in Chief of CheckMeowt. When he is not sat at the computer guzzling down the nearest thing with protein in it, he can be found pulling up the world in the gym. Occasionally, he is best described as socially unreliable and easily distracte.