We’ve all been there. You feel your stomach grumble several hours after dinner, so you pause Netflix and wander toward the refrigerator. A late-night snack habit can be a dangerous game when you are working hard to achieve health and fitness goals. Don’t derail your routine by reaching for random snacks that aren’t in your meal plan. Instead, try a scientifically-proven snack combo which will curb your hunger, help you achieve a restful night of sleep, and keep you on track toward your health goals.
What is the Best Bedtime Snack Combo? Carbs + Protein!
Why? One Word: Tryptophan!
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in many protein-rich foods. It has been studied for its sleep-boosting properties. When tryptophan enters the brain, it is used to create serotonin.
Serotonin is often referred to as “the happy hormone.” It is a neurotransmitter associated with sleep and mood. Besides promoting restful sleep and a feeling of well-being, serotonin also helps with digestion.
The Late-Night Snack Dream Team: Tryptophan Plus Carbs
When you eat protein, you consume a variety of amino acids (including tryptophan). All of these amino acids must compete with each other to cross the blood-brain barrier. The ratio of tryptophan to other amino acids is usually low, meaning tryptophan gets pushed out of the way and can’t get transported easily.
Protein full of tryptophan is the best bedtime snack, but not unless it’s paired with carbs. Carbohydrates increase the efficacy (impact) of tryptophan on the brain by triggering the release of insulin. Insulin removes all amino acids from the blood EXCEPT tryptophan, leaving plenty of space for tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Think of a turkey and stuffing dinner leading to naps!
What Does Research State? Does a Protein and Carb Snack Help with Sleep?
Tryptophan has been shown to reduce symptoms of insomnia, sleep apnea, depression, and anxiety. Tryptophan has also been shown to increase both serotonin and melatonin in the blood.
What’s melatonin? It is a hormone involved in our sleep-wake cycle. Increases in melatonin in the evening are what contribute to us feeling sleepy.
Rich Sources of Tryptophan:
- Seeds (specifically pumpkin seeds)
- Cheese (specifically cheddar cheese)
Best MetPro Approved Bedtime Snacks:
- Cheese and crackers
- Banana with almond butter
- Eggs on toast
- Oats and peanut butter
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Fruit and nuts
How can you incorporate a healthy late-night snack into your daily routine while on MetPro?
No Carb Phases: This is useful information if you notice sleep disturbances during your cutting phase – it could be due to a lack of carbs at night. We recommend a night-time snack rich in protein like a scoop of peanut butter, a handful of pumpkin seeds, or a few slices of turkey.
Carb Phases: If you are struggling with sleep, consider asking your coach if you can swap to a 6-meal progression (if you are on a 5-meal progression) and we recommend a snack like the options above (OR head over to our sweet treat article which has some good protein + carb combo options!) for that serotonin punch before bedtime.