You spend all day following a carefully planned regimen that involves a finely tuned workout and perfectly timed nutrient intake (i.e., lots of protein, in shake form when necessary). But did you realize that you could blow all that precision — and make your physique suffer the results — in the very last moments of the day, right before you go to bed? No matter whether you’re looking to add size, get lean or just boost athletic performance, what and when you eat in the evening can go a long way toward determining just how much progress you make.
1 REDUCE CARB CONSUMPTION
If you’re an after-work trainer, you’ll need some carbs with your postworkout shake to replenish glycogen and spike insulin. But after that, it’s time to taper off to a carbohydrate lockout. Carbs consumed later in the day, when activity levels wane, are more likely to be stored as fat. To stave off any unwanted weight gain, consume the majority of your carbohydrates earlier in the day when your body can better put them to work for you.
2 SUPER FAT
It may seem strange to advocate the reduction of carbs, only to suggest the ingestion of fat, but that’s exactly what you should do in the evening. Healthy fats, such as those found in natural peanut butter, nuts, seeds, olive oil and flax, help to slow digestion, which is ideal for the approaching overnight food fast. An hour or two before bedtime, you could have a small portion of fatty fish or a tablespoon of peanut butter as a snack. As an added measure, drop a teaspoon of flaxseed oil into your bedtime shake (see No. 3) to further slow digestion.
3 THE CASEIN CONNECTION
So what’s a man (or woman) to do when denied the comfort of nighttime carbs? Focus on protein, of course. But not just any protein — make it casein. Because casein clumps in the stomach, it has a much slower rate of digestion. Having 20 to 40 grams of micellar casein, which can stay with you for six to seven hours, just before bedtime can provide your body with the building blocks it needs to grow at night, while levels of natural growth hormone are peaking.
4 ARGININE … BEFORE BED?
You betcha. Yes, arginine often comes stacked with stimulants like caffeine for preworkout purposes. Don’t take your usual preworkout supp now, though. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, those who slept for five hours or fewer per night were a third more likely to pack on 30 pounds than those who slept seven hours or more. But having some plain L-arginine on hand is a great idea for those serious about gaining strength and mass. Taking 3 to 5 grams of the stuff before bed, perhaps with your casein shake, can help to optimize growth-hormone levels while you sleep. This is crucial not just for muscle building and repair but also for fat loss.
5 SLEEP SUPPS
The benefits of a good night’s sleep can’t be overstated (see No. 4). But if you are prone to busy brain, you work out too late or your preworkout supps tend to cause a stir in your bloodstream late into the evening, you may need some help. That’s where ZMA comes in. ZMA, which combines zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6, is an all-star among evening supplements because it promotes deeper sleep, aids in protein synthesis and boosts growth-hormone levels.