Cottage Cheese Before Bed?
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Let’s be honest.
Cottage cheese is not the prettiest looking food out there. If I’m being completely transparent, this type of cheese reminds me of those not-so-sexy, back-in-the-day salad bars that also offered jello. Some might say that jello and cottage cheese are the perfect combination. There are even recipes online for cottage cheese jello salads. No, thank you! I try my best to avoid processed foods such as jello, but a recent study provided evidence suggesting that I may want to give cottage cheese a chance in my regular diet. The main reason being that I am a very active person and workout regularly.
The study was conducted by researchers at Florida State University, and the results of the study were published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The study participants were active women in their early 20s.
Before I continue, I know what some of you are probably thinking: You can get away with anything if you are young and active. Well, for one, that is not true. Secondly, I want you to really pay attention to what the researchers saw and think about how this could apply to your personal diet and lifestyle.
The young women were instructed to consume samples of cottage cheese 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. They only ate 30 grams (about one ounce) of cottage cheese. This is about two tablespoons, so it’s not like they were eating huge bowls of cottage cheese.
“Researchers specifically wanted to see if this food may have an impact on metabolic rate and muscle recovery,” according to Florida State University.
Many people may fear that eating before bedtime can contribute to weight gain. But if you choose the right types of foods and maintain an active lifestyle, eating a late night snack may actually be very beneficial.
The control group of the study were given a casein (which is a type of protein cottage cheese is very rich in) shake.
“The scientists wanted to compare the effects of cottage cheese with those of protein shakes, which are popular in the fitness community for helping muscle repair and metabolism,” according to one report that discusses the results of the study.
The results revealed that eating cottage cheese had just as much of a positive effect as consuming the casein shake when it came to muscle recovery, metabolism and overall health.
“And for those who have sworn off eating at night, there is no gain in body fat,” Florida State University reports.
This is promising news for people who prefer whole foods over supplements. I must say that I prefer whole foods over supplements even though supplementation (through taking quality supplements recommended by a competent healthcare practitioner) can be absolutely necessary and very beneficial.
“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,” said Samantha Leyh (one of the researchers on the study).
“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.”
I talk a lot about how important it is to fuel your body both before and after exercise with the right nutrients. I have not, however, talked much about pre sleep nutrition (specifically how it can help you reach your fitness goals).
Cottage cheese is very rich in a protein called casein (basically casein is the major protein found in bovine milk). Casein is a slow digesting protein. Protein in general is important for muscle building and recovery.
“Protein ingested prior to sleep is effectively digested and absorbed during overnight sleep, thereby increasing overnight muscle protein synthesis rates,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Protein consumption prior to sleep does not appear to reduce appetite during breakfast the following day and does not change resting energy expenditure. When applied over a prolonged period of resistance-type exercise training, pre-sleep protein supplementation has a beneficial effect on the increase in muscle mass and strength. Protein ingestion before sleep is hypothesized to represent an effective nutritional strategy to preserve muscle mass in the elderly, especially when combined with physical activity or muscle contraction by means of neuromuscular electrical stimulation.”
So just because the study mentioned earlier only included young, active women does not mean that older people cannot benefit from eating cottage cheese before bedtime, especially when combined with resistance training during the day. As we age, we naturally lose muscle which is why getting enough protein is good as we age.
Cottage cheese is low in calories and rich in critical nutrients such as phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12 and calcium. There is even evidence that eating cottage cheese may help balance glucose levels which can be great if you have type 2 diabetes.
Ways to Incorporate Cottage Cheese Into Your Diet.
Cottage cheese is actually pretty mild in taste. So if approved by your doctor, maybe try a few spoonfuls before bedtime. If this is something you cannot seem to find appetizing, there are other ways to incorporate cottage cheese into your diet. Even if you do not eat cottage cheese before bed, it can still be a healthy food to eat. The protein may help keep you full for a longer period of time and may prevent overeating throughout the day or snacking on unhealthy foods.
- Eat with fresh sliced tomatoes from the farmers market.
- Try making some healthy cottage cheese pancakes.
- Make some cottage cheese breakfast bowls with healthy toppings such as fruit and nuts.
- Blend some cottage cheese into your smoothie.
- You can even bake with cottage cheese and use it to make a healthier lasagna.
If you are vegan or have a dairy allergy, cottage cheese is clearly not for you, but this does not mean that you cannot speak with a competent healthcare practitioner about how you can get enough healthy protein into your diet.
If your goal is to build muscle and repair your muscles, speak with your doctor about protein options before bedtime.
As always, take routine nutrient tests in order to identify any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. A competent healthcare professional can help you make the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.