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  • Writer's pictureMia Raj

What to eat after I workout at night?

In this blog post, Mia Raj discusses what to eat after working out at night. She covers the importance of post-workout nutrition and provides tips on how to fuel your body effectively. If you're looking for guidance on what to eat after your evening workout, this post is a must-read. Visit bitewell for more information on healthy eating habits.

This post is for all my night owls who hate hitting the gym at the crack of dawn. Whether you don’t have time before you go into the office or to class, or you simply just prefer moving later in the day, you most often find yourself working out at night. While many individuals enjoy a late-night workout, they tend to struggle with the proper nutrition that comes along with it. Here lies the ultimate guide on how to properly fuel late-night workouts: if you should eat before or after a workout, what exactly to eat, and what happens if you don’t eat after a workout.

runner eating granola bar as a snack before her workout

Should you workout before or after you eat at night?

Eating Before you Workout:

Eating before you work out can help improve your energy levels and reduce feelings of fatigue or weakness. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics strongly recommends eating before you work out to fuel your body for running, lifting weights, swimming, etc. Likewise, several studies have reported better performance when food was consumed before exercise, especially for high-level athletes and individuals who perform long-duration exercise.

Evidence for short-duration exercise, however, suggests that eating before your workout does not significantly impact your performance. Also, for some individuals, eating before exercise can make them feel sluggish or nauseous.

Eating After you Workout:

Whether you eat before your workout or not, definitely be sure to eat after your workout. Eating after your workout is crucial as it helps your muscles recover and replenish their glycogen stores. Carbohydrates and protein are both important macronutrients to include in your post-workout meal. Since carbohydrates are the major source of fuel for muscles, consuming carbohydrates post-exercise will replenish these stores. Equally, protein is an essential element to your post-workout meal as it helps build and repair your muscle tissues and enhances recovery.

Furthermore, it’s important to consume a high-quality protein source within the first 2 hours after your workout to stimulate the creation of new muscle tissue.

While studies show benefits for consuming meals, both before and after exercising, the most important takeaway is making sure you’re fueling your body post-workout. When it comes to planning a pre-workout meal, arguably, the most important factor is your own personal preference. Experiment and figure out what works best for you and your body. Most active individuals can reach their goals and make progress whether they eat before their workout or not, however, post-workout nutrition is key.


How should I eat if I workout at night?

Tip 1: Choose between complex vs. simple carbs

If you choose to eat before you work out, eating a meal primarily composed of carbohydrates is best. The type of carb you consume depends on the type of exercise you’re performing and how soon after eating you will perform that activity.

The Mayo Clinic states that larger meals should be consumed about 3 to 4 hours before exercising, and smaller meals/snacks should be consumed between 1 to 3 hours before exercising.

In your larger meals, try eating more complex carbohydrates since these are fiber-rich and take longer to digest. Some complex-carbohydrate sources include whole wheat pasta, quinoa, sweet potato, millet, and brown rice. If you eat meat, pair your carbs with chicken, fish, turkey, or eggs for a high-quality source of protein. However, if you're vegetarian, quinoa is a complete protein that you can pair with grilled vegetables.

If you opt for a smaller meal consumed within an hour of your workout, I recommend consuming simple carbohydrates. Compared to complex carbs, simple carbs are digested faster and provide quick, efficient energy. Avoid high-fat, high-fiber foods as they can slow digestion and cause discomfort during your workout. Snack bars, rice cakes, and fruit, such as a banana or apple, can serve as great simple-carbohydrate sources to give you quick energy to sustain you through the duration of your workout.

Tip 2: Plan your meal around your workout

Try planning your meals depending on what time you normally work out in the evening. If you work out fairly early, you can eat dinner afterward. Although, if you prefer to work out later in the evening, you can have a lighter dinner before, and then eat a post-workout snack or shake after.

Tip 3: Be mindful when fueling before bed

Chowing down on a massive meal right before bed can cause heartburn and negatively impact sleep quality. However, your body still needs food to replenish and recover from your evening workout.

Aim to eat a small, protein-rich snack post-workout to replenish your muscles and help you feel full. Here are some healthy post-workout options that are great to consume before bed:

  • Turkey: First, we have turkey as a great option for your post-workout meal as it is high in protein and in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body uses to produce melatonin and serotonin, both influence healthy sleep patterns. Furthermore, what makes turkey so great, is that it provides 8 grams of protein per ounce giving muscles what they need to recover.

  • Yogurt: Another sleep-friendly food that assists with muscle recovery is yogurt. Yogurt, along with most other dairy products, is high in tryptophan and a good source of protein and carbs. Top your yogurt with some granola, nuts, or seeds to add additional fiber and healthy fats. Chia seeds and almonds are perfect on top of yogurt as these are rich sources of magnesium - a nutrient that also helps regulate sleep.

  • Quinoa: Quinoa is a complex carbohydrate that can help lower cortisol levels, a hormone involved in our body’s stress response. Lower cortisol levels help give you a better night’s sleep. Quinoa is also a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, which can help with muscle recovery while you sleep. Quinoa is a perfect option for gluten-free and vegetarian or vegan individuals.

  • Oats: Lastly, oats are an awesome post-workout snack to consume before bed, as they’re rich in melatonin, a hormone that relaxes your body and helps you fall asleep. You can add almonds or chia seeds for healthy fats, or cut up a banana to top your oatmeal with an extra dose of tryptophan and magnesium!


What happens if you don't eat after a workout at night?

Proper post-workout nutrition is key when it comes to providing your body with the nutrients it needs to recover and improve athletic performance. If you fail to properly fuel after your workouts, it could affect your future performance.

For example, without proper post-workout fuel, it will take you longer to feel recovered and you may experience excess muscle soreness or muscle loss. Likewise, after cardiovascular and endurance-based exercise, such as running or biking, your body is depleted of its glycogen stores. Without replacing these stores with a post-workout snack, you may end up too fatigued to train at your best during the following session.

Consuming a post-workout meal consisting of protein and carbohydrates is ideal for repairing and building muscle mass.


Should you workout before or after you eat at night?

Consider the following when deciding whether to workout before or after eating at night:

  1. Eating before your workout can help you have more energy throughout your workout, though, some may feel sluggish or nauseous if they eat before.

  2. If you choose to eat before your workout, make sure to give yourself 1-2 hours to fully digest your food before exercising.

  3. Eating after your workout can help recover, replenish, and repair your muscles and glycogen stores.

  4. If you do choose to eat after your workout, make sure you eat something high in protein and with complex carbohydrates to receive maximum recovery benefits.

  5. Experiment with eating before versus after your workout to see what works best for you and your body. Or try both!

Ultimately, the decision to work out before or after eating at night is yours to make. If you choose to work out after you eat, consider also consuming a post-workout snack that is high in protein and contains complex carbs to refuel and rebuild your muscles.

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