What to eat before bed for weight gain? It’s one time of day where you can make a ton of gains, with sleep driving better muscle and weight gain. But what should you eat?
Today we’re looking at the best food to eat before bed to gain weight, some key examples, and other factors you can use to drive better gains while you sleep.
Let’s get started with why bedtime is so important for weight gain and what you can do about it...
Why Sleep is So Important for Weight Gain
Sleep is the time your body is most effective at building muscle, repairing damage, and turning your food into energy or tissues. This is key for gaining weight where you’re trying to push the muscle gains and turn proteins and carbs into muscle mass.
Feeding before bedtime is also important because it determines how these processes work. The food you eat before bed controls the hormonal processes and the resources available to your body while you sleep.
This is a key factor in short-term recovery for exercise and the muscle growth it drives, as well as the quality of sleep itself.
This is why we’re talking about the best foods to eat before bed: better pre-bed nutrition improves sleep quality, resource availability, and it’s an easy place to score big wins on your diet.
Simply finding the best food to eat at night to gain weight is a huge advantage that can drive maximum muscle gains.
What Makes a Great Food for Sleep and Growth?
Long-Term Protein Levels
Protein is always the most important nutrient for muscle gains. Not only that, but the release and uptake of proteins for use in the muscles is slow, making it perfect as the nutrient of focus before bed - you’ve got the time to put proteins to work.
A high-protein meal before bed is the best way to maximize the recovery and growth benefits of your sleep.
Athletes will keep protein high all day, but particularly in dinner or their pre-bed meal, where the body has plenty of time to turn that protein into muscle gains, tendon and connective tissues, and use it to strengthen bones.
Even protein shakes make sense before bed - so maybe we should be asking what to drink before bed? Whatever the source, a protein-rich meal is the best thing to eat before sleep for weight gain and performance.
Slow-Burning Carbs for Overnight Energy
Carbs are always good for muscle growth. Before bed, they should be slower digesting, however.
After a workout, you want fast-absorbing carbs to replenish stores of energy. The best carbs before bed are slow, like wholegrains, beans and pulses, and some high-fiber tubers.
A carb- and protein-rich meal is the best food before bed for weight gain, since the protein slows the carb-absorption down.
Your body will use these carbs overnight as metabolic processes are slowed, providing the energy necessary for the 8-9 hours you should spend sleeping and producing muscle mass.
You do get your 8 hours, right? If not, you could be sabotaging your own progress.
Fats: The Slow-Burning Energy Source
Fats are most important as an energy source before bed due to their long-lasting energy release and the hormonal processes that sleep kickstarts. Fats are important for both the energy and the hormonal health that these processes rely on.
While carbs typically take lead in muscle production, fats are most effective before sleep - rather than during the day - to help maintain energy levels. They stay relevant during sleep as triglyceride uptake is higher and carb metabolism is slowed.
Make sure your pre-sleep meal has fats - either from a high-quality source or a mixed fat/protein source (like seafood or high-quality red meats) - to bolster your energy levels.
Best Foods to Eat Before Bed to Gain Weight
1. Casein and Slow-Digesting Protein Powders
This is the slow digesting dairy protein that has the most potent effects on 7-hour protein levels. These are closely associated with muscle gains and are closer to the 8-hour sleep cycles you should be using to drive muscle gain and to avoid muscle protein breakdown:
“Whole body protein breakdown was inhibited by 34% after [casein] ingestion but not after [whey protein] ingestion”
Casein is the best food to eat before bed to gain weight. It’s a key driver of muscle growth, protein availability, and rich in Leucine - the most important amino acid for muscle gains.
This signals muscle growth after exercise, providing the best chance to gain quality muscle mass. It also digests more slowly and is anecdotally a much better sleep-promoting food.
Casein is widely available but you should be selecting for digestive comfort, Leucine content, and taste/texture (because low-quality casein is an ordeal). Casein is technically the best drink before bed to gain weight - and one of the most important and effective protein supplements.
2. Protein From Foods and “Heavy” Sources
Protein sources from other high-quality foods are also important. While they’re typically not as effective as Casein, mixed sources and food sources are clearly the place to go.
Red meats are great for this, as they’re rich in leucine and other essential nutrients, while resting “heavy” in the digestive system. This helps improve sleep quality and reduces latency. There are few recovery and muscle-gain tools quite as useful as the “food coma”!
You can also use high-quality dairy before bed - like yoghurt, kefir, cottage cheese, and high-protein hard cheeses - to get mixed milk protein (whey and casein together).
Other fat-rich protein sources like seafood and fattier poultry (like chicken thigh) also make lots of sense here.
3. Starches: The Best Carbs For Sleep and Recovery
When it comes to carbs, slow-digesters are perfect before bed. This means you should be eating complex starches and fiber-rich foods.
Carbs aren’t as directly effective since the protein synthesis of sleep is extended over a long time. While this is a slowed metabolism, it’s also important to get carbs with protein to make the best of your meal and drive night-time muscle gains.
Obvious choices include tubers for mid-digesting release, wholegrains and pulses for long-term energy, and veggies for both fiber and nutrients. These are the best choices - along with whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and other slow-release carb favorites - to sustain energy levels overnight.
What’s important is eating these with slow-digesting proteins and fats. They slow down the digestion of carbs and maintain a lower, more stable energy availability and insulin level overnight.
A perfect tool in controlling your metabolism, keeping it simmering overnight while you build muscle.
4. Best Fatty Foods: Seafood, Dairy, and Plant Fats
What should I eat before bed to gain weight? Fats are best at a distance from workouts, where they can use long-term energy to drive low-level activity. During sleep, this background energy source is key to maintaining a healthy energy abundance for better muscle growth - especially with carbs and proteins in a mixed meal.
High-quality fats from seafood, plants (like avocado and olive), coconut oil or MCTs, and high-quality dairy or meats is a powerful source of maintenance energy. These are typically either essential fats (like omega-3s) or mixed in with high-quality proteins.
Fats are a great carrier for essential vitamins (A, D, E, and K) as well as the building block of hormones.
They’re a huge player in your overnight recovery quality and overall health - select for quality and make sure that your pre-bed meal (dinner or otherwise) has some healthy fats to maintain energy levels through the night and into the morning!
5. Mixed Meals for Better Overnight Muscle Gains
You might be noticing that mixed-meals are the key to better sleeping gains. This is because the best food to eat before bed to gain weight is not one food. It’s the combination of different nutrients, typically found in high-quality sources like mixed protein-fats (meat, dairy, and seafood) and protein-carbs (beans and pulses).
Mixed meals are normal for a reason. At night, you should be eating a big meal if possible. If you’re not good at that, eat a normal meal and follow it up with a casein shake and a bowl of oatmeal with cocoa powder (e.g.) to get mixed nutrients without the big dinner.
Mixing foods and nutrients is great before bed since protein and fats slow down the rate of carb metabolism and ensure proper whole-nutrient availability.
You’ll be abundant in all the important stuff and have the slow-digesting effects of protein and fats to control your energy levels, bringing out that 8-hour sustained energy that makes for better recovery and muscle gain.
Other Key Factors for Better Sleep Gains
Sleep Duration: Get Your 8 Hours
If you’re not sleeping enough, it doesn’t matter what you eat. The point of eating before bed for weight gain is to optimize your results. You can’t do that if your sleep isn’t even at minimum levels (7hours a night) or perfect ones (8+ hours).
Did you know that testosterone levels rise with sleep up to 9.9-10 hours? More sleep is better up until this point, so even 8 hours of sleep could be improved - if you find time.
Start by sleeping the appropriate amount, regularly, and then worry about food. There's no point feeding well for half of the sleep you actually need. If you’re trying to gain weight and build muscle, sleep quantity is essential.
If you’re struggling to sleep, set up a sleep alarm clock - the opposite of a wake-up alarm clock.
This should be used to set a time for turning everything off and winding down - one 30 minutes before bed and one when it’s time to sleep. Take your sleep seriously and you’ll get serious results. Take your sleep for granted and you’ll sabotage your own results.
Sleep Anxiety and Restfulness
Anxious sleep is low quality sleep. It’s a light and non-restful sleep that produces a limited form of the recovery, growth, and performance-boost that we love about good sleep.
There are many sources for sleep anxiety that can really disrupt sleep - directly reducing both the hormonal benefits of the rest and the tissue-level repair and growth that you’re looking for:
- High levels of stress and anxiety before sleep (obviously)
- Disrupted sleep schedule or routine
- Exposure to excessively-stimulating media or other experiences before bed
- Excessive blue light later in the day
- Disrupted circadian rhythms: going to sleep at a different time - especially relative to the sunrise or sunset
These all disrupt the quality of sleep and the effectiveness it has in your weight gain journey. It’s even more important than the foods to eat before bed to gain weight - since sleep controls hormonal processes, muscle repair, and other factors even more than food does.
Feed yourself to support effective sleep quality, but also make sure that the rest of your “sleep hygiene” is in order.
A 4-hour sleep with perfect nutrition is nowhere near as useful as a good 8 hours with mediocre nutrition - especially if the latter is deeper sleep.
Eat like a bear, sleep like a bear. That’s how weight gain works best.
Your Sleeping Environment: Set Your Room Up For Sleep
The environment you sleep in matters deeply to the quality of your sleep. You can’t sleep equally well on the street as in a bed. The quality of sleep is determined by the things you eat before bed, but also the bed, the room, and other factors.
Let’s start with the ideal sleep and look at each factor. When any or all of these factors are missing, sleep gets worse - more missing qualities, more limitation in recovery and healthy weight gain:
- A dark room - as dark as possible - with no screen light (in particular)
- A cool room with proper ventilation
- A quiet room without regular noises or dramatic changes in noise level
Losing any of these is a real problem to the quality of sleep. It’s a way of basically half-waking-up and we don’t typically know when these happen by morning.
If you’re feeling unrested and low-energy by morning, these 3 major factors could also be the cause of concerns.
What to Eat Before Bed to Weight Gain: Frequently Asked Questions
Does eating before bed make you gain weight?
Not by itself - it can be a useful part of a diet that helps you gain weight. Old myths about “eating after 6pm” are ridiculous - what matters is that your diet has the right amount of calories on daily average - when you eat it can be used to improve recovery but doesn’t turn food into fat.
Will eating before bed make you gain weight?
It won’t make you, but it can help. It’s an effective habit for performance, mainly, and getting the most from your food.
If you’re looking to gain weight then night-time feeding is a great way to gain muscle mass. On the other hand, it’s a way of preventing muscle breakdown during a weight loss diet.
Eating before bed is just a way of making the most of sleep - which is a key process for health, wellbeing, performance, and gaining muscle mass (or protecting it).
Do you gain weight eating before bed?
There’s no direct link between eating times and weight loss or gain. It’s a tool you can use, but it’s a bad idea to treat timing like it’s that important.
There’s a hierarchy of what matters - and timing is low on that ladder:
Food timing can help you optimize your results but it’s not going to make you gain weight by itself.
Sleep is a powerful tool in your toolkit for building high-quality muscle mass and weight. Getting the right foods to eat before bed to gain weight is a huge benefit to your mass gaining journey. You should focus on mixing the right nutrients and focusing on the nutrient-dense, body-fueling foods we’ve discussed above.
There are tons of options and the principles we’ve discussed will let you take control of your own bedtime nutrition and what to eat before bed to gain weight.
This is one of the keys to maximizing your gains that is straight from the elite athlete and bodybuilder playbook - letting you get the best from your diet and sleep.
There’s more to good sleep than just nutrition (and eating before bed to gain weight), but the things you eat before bed play a key role.
Give your body the energy and resources that it needs to build muscle and you’ll find that weight gain gets a lot easier as this becomes a regular habit!