Lately, I have been going to the gym at 9 PM (assume for the question that I can't go earlier in the day). I usually get home around 10:15 PM and then try to get to sleep by around 11:30 PM. I am doing both cardio and weight training. I wanted to see if (and what) is recommended to eat because:

  1. On one hand people say you need a good meal after working out to repair and nourish your body.

  2. On the other hand, people say to avoid eating late at night and right before you go to sleep.

I am trying to reconcile both of these recommendations to see what if anything i should be eating late after working out.

  • What is the reasoning for the advice against eating late at night?
    – user3085
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 4:57
  • Sancho : I think it is ok to eat late at night but should not go to sleep immediately after eating. Read more about Diabetes there is a lot of reasoning given there.
    – Geek
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 5:43
  • 1
    focus more on foods high in protein, less in carbohydrates as it will spike that insulin and cause you to be a bit more awake. If you consistent with a workout schedule your body will go through the adaptation process and adjust to that time schedule. Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 5:42

6 Answers 6


I wouldn't worry about eating right before sleeping. This easy to read article summarizes a study done with groups of people eating at different times of the day to see if it had any effect on fat loss/gain. In addition to this there is also anecdotal evidence gleaned from Muslims fasting during the month of Ramadan (all food is eaten close to sleeping). For some unknown reason people eating carbs in a big lump before bed lost more fat. Like the article says, there isn't enough proof yet to state that you SHOULD definitely jam all carbs in before bed, but certainly you shouldn't be worried about excess fat gain or anything like that.

I also do the gym training close to bed time. After convincing myself in the past few months that I didn't have to eat 6 meals a day I eat almost 1000 of my 3000 calories shortly before my head touches the pillow and fat loss/muscle gain is at an all time high. Note: I wouldn't contribute this improvement to my changing eating habits but it merely adds to my confidence that it doesn't make a difference. Our bodies adapt quite nicely as @Sancho said in his comment.


There is no reason why you shouldn't eat shortly before going to bed as long as you remain within your nutritional requirements for the whole day. There has been no study I'm aware of that has shown any correlation with food timing and body composition. There is a clear correlation with body composition and food content. The biggest concern is with sleep quality and food content.

There are reasons to eat after exercise:

  • To replenish your glycogen stores (energy in your muscles)
  • To aid in recovery--if your body has the raw materials necessary, it can do it's job better

Assuming you are getting your daily requirement of protein throughout the day, the biggest need your body has after exercise is carbohydrates. Post exercise is the safest and most useful time to eat carbs. The majority of the energy is put into your muscle, which aids recovery.

The problem is that you need to find a carb source that won't affect your sleep. Now is not the time to get that super spicy deep fried chimichanga. You definitely want to avoid anything that is likely to give you heartburn. Also, you don't want something that will turn to liquid and wake you up at 3:00am with an urge to urinate. That rules out frozen treats like ice cream and most shakes (protein or otherwise). You know your body best, so try different things to figure out what works best for you.

It can be useful to save the vast majority your daily allotment of carbs to post training. This ensures you don't overeat for the day, and it addresses the recovery issue nicely.


Having a protein shake with water helps in muscle repair after workout, and also it digests faster than a proper meal.

  • Chocolate milk is another option.
    – siouxfan45
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 17:08

The time of your work out is probably ok but it doesn't synch well with the time you go off to sleep. You should keep awake atleast for 2 hours after your dinner. You should absolutely EAT after the workout otherwise you would starve your body of the repair that should happen after the workout. Probably you should try to sleep at 12 and eat immediately after the workout by 10:30. It is not recommended to sleep immediately after you have had a meal, this has bad effect on your sugar levels. If you are young and working out enough you might still get away with the harmful effects if you sleep immediately after the meal but it isn't recommended.

  • Do protein and/or creatine shakes satisfy that necessary calorie intake after workout?
    – le_garry
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 17:14

You'd want to eat something that's fairly fast digesting, as undigested food when you're sleeping is a problem (hence the recommendation that you shouldn't eat late).

Smoothies would be great for that, as a lot of the digesting work (chewing and mashing the food around by the stomach) would already be done, so it's just straight to breaking down the food for absorption. Monosaccharaides would be good for that, so very ripe bananas would be great for the smoothie, as would a small amount of whey protein (protein doesn't digest that quickly, so you don't want too much). Smoothies are also quick and easy to make, so you can get to eating them faster than a regular meal.

Also taking a multivitamin/mineral after the workout wouldn't be a bad idea under the circumstances.

  • What is the problem with digesting food while you're sleeping?
    – user3085
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 7:13
  • You can't do it very well.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 7:14
  • 1
    Could you point to a reference for that? (I was about to eat.. and then sleep!)
    – user3085
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 7:17
  • 1
    oh! You're that Robin Ashe... I learned single-leg takedowns from you.
    – user3085
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 8:02
  • 1
    Yes, that's me. Small world!
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 17:49

If you're working out late, especially if it's a cardio session, it's ok to skip any meal and go to bed directly. Make sure you'll have a healthy breakfast in the morning though.

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