Eat This Food Before Bed to Boost Health Without Gaining Weight, Scientists Say

Researchers investigated the effects of eating cottage cheese before bed in a small study. Getty Images

Eating cottage cheese before bed could boost health without leading to weight gain, a small study suggested. Snacking on 30 grams of the high-protein food about 30 minutes before going to sleep was found to aid a person's overall health, as well as metabolism and the quality of muscle tissue.

Researchers at Florida State University wanted to investigate the effects of eating what are known as whole food proteins, meaning products such as cottage cheese rather than protein shakes, on muscle recovery and metabolic rate.

To carry out their study, the researchers had 10 active women with an average age of 23 years old stay at the laboratory on four occasions. They were told to eat a 30 gram serving of cottage cheese between 30 minutes to an hour before bed, and two hours after their dinner. The cottage cheese contained 30g of protein, 10g of carbohydrate and 0g of fat.

The authors of the study did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Michael Ormsbee, associate professor of nutrition, food and exercise sciences at Florida State University who co-authored the study published in the British Journal of Nutrition commented: "Until now, we presumed that whole foods would act similarly to the data on supplemental protein, but we had no real evidence.

"This is important because it adds to the body of literature that indicates that whole foods work just as well as protein supplementation, and it gives people options for pre-sleep nutrition that go beyond powders and shaker bottles."

Florida State University graduate study and co-author Samantha Leyh, who is now an Air Force dietitian, said: "While protein supplements absolutely have their place, it is important to begin pooling data for foods and understanding the role they can play in these situations.

"Like the additive and synergistic effects of vitamins and minerals when consumed in whole food form such as fruits or veggies, perhaps whole food sources may follow suit. While we can't generalize for all whole foods as we have only utilized cottage cheese, this research will hopefully open the door to future studies doing just that."

Next, the team plans to investigate the pros and cons of eating other foods before sleep in order the pinpoint what's best to eat for dinner.

Aisling Pigott, a qualified dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, told Newsweek: "Usually, these studies use a protein supplement, but this uses real food. It highlights that a casein rich snack pre-bed supports muscle development. This highlights the benefits of real food within sports nutrition."

However, she pointed out the women in the study were active and the results therefore may not directly translate to inactive individuals.

Commenting more generally on whether the time a person eats has an affect on his or her overall health and health weight management, she said: "On a whole, not really. But that's not to say you should starve all day and eat all your calories at night.

"Most of the evidence points toward the benefits of a stable, regular meal pattern and a good relationship with food to support weight management."

The research is the latest to investigate the potential benefits of consuming dairy products. A separate study published in The Lancet indicated eating three servings of dairy products a day could cut the risk of heart disease.

An analysis of the diets of 130,000 people across 24 countries suggested one serving (244 grams, or 8.6 ounces) of full-fat milk or yogurt, a 15 gram (0.6 ounce) slice of cheese or a teaspoon of butter could boost a person's health.

The findings are particularly relevant to those in low and middle income countries where dairy intake is low, Mahshid Dehghan, an investigator in the nutrition epidemiology program at the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and lead author of the study, told Newsweek at the time.