Author: Troy Theodosiou
Have you ever wondered why some foods make you feel sleepy while others give you a lift? Do you sometimes find yourself dozing off after a big meal or reaching for a sugary snack when you’re tired? In addition to giving us nourishment, the things we eat and drink can pick us up or slow us down. Knowing how food and beverages affect the body can help keep you alert during the day and avoid the agony of sleeplessness at night.
Snooze Foods and Pick-Me-Ups
Certain foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan that causes sleepiness. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-heavy meals can make you drowsy. Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan, which is why the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or cheese and crackers.
Nature’s Sleeping Pill
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that regulates sleepiness. It is made in the brain by converting tryptophan first to serotonin and then to melatonin, which is secreted at night by the pineal gland in the brain to induce and maintain sleep. Scientific evidence shows little or no benefit of melatonin in improving sleep. Still, melatonin supplements are widely used as sleep aids.
Why whey protein isn’t the best option before bed
Whey protein is designed to give you a quick infusion of amino acids and some calories. This means that it’s highly useful to have before, during, and immediately after your exercise.
- Before your workout it helps to produce ATP energy to use during training
- Mid-workout it helps to keep your energy levels high and your muscles workout
- After your workout it helps to replenish lost nutrients and speed up recovery
But the fact that whey protein is fast-acting means that it’s NOT the best option for you to take right before bed. Why is this? It may not provide you with the long-term feeling of satiety you are looking for at night, since it is used up so quickly for energy and muscle repair.
But, there is a better option for protein before bed — casein. With casein protein, you get a very slow-burning form of energy that your body is able to digest and absorb over the course of the evening. It takes hours to break down the casein protein, so it’s a slow trickle of energy.
The slow burn of casein is great for blood sugar and for satiety. There’s far less chance of your waking up at night due to hunger when you consume casein protein. You still give your body all the amino acids it needs to make repairs to your damaged muscles, but without difficulty sleeping or waking up due to a blood sugar crash.