Would you eat a steak or drink four glasses of milk before bed? A sports dietitian explains why you should, and how it is beneficial for your body.
According to Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) senior sport dietitian and sleep scientist Dr Richard Swinbourne, consuming protein before sleeping is beneficial for your body.
Speaking at the Food and Hotel Asia 2018 Nutrition Kitchen: Eat Your Way To High Performance and Peaceful Sleep event at the Singapore Expo, he said: “Sleep is the window where we are designed to grow and repair.”
“There are little minions in our muscles that want to build brick walls, but they can only build a wall if there are bricks to build it with. Taking in protein at night is dropping a wheelbarrow of bricks for the minions to build the wall. If you under consume protein, you basically eat yourself, we don’t want anyone doing that,” he said.
He cited studies that have shown we can tolerate the intake of protein – equivalent to a chicken breast or four glasses of milk – before we sleep at night.
The New Zealander, who has worked with Olympic swimming golden boy Joseph Schooling, has been at SSI since 2016. Before coming to Singapore, he was a sports dietitian and sleep scientist with the All Blacks sevens and professional rugby team Hurricanes.
“You are probably not going to drink four glasses of milk, because you will be in the toilet all night,” he said. However, our body can tolerate the protein intake before bed because 100 per cent of it will be integrated into our muscles the next morning.
“So we can take a lot of protein before that and soak it all up constructively through the night, and it doesn’t go to waste.”
Dr Swinbourne also recommends milk before sleeping. “Dairy is tops for me in terms of dietary protein,” he said. “Milk is high on biological quality, it is readily available to the body. If someone takes milk before bed, it will be built into the muscle the next morning unwasted.”
When asked about portion sizes, he shared a simple guide for “the weekend warrior or the man on the street”.
He said: “Use your hands. If somebody looks at the size and thickness of their palm, that is a nice amount of protein for a meal. The size of your fist is a good serve of carbohydrates. When we cup our hands together, as if we are begging for money, that is a good serve of vegetables.”
A version of this article first appeared on www.tnp.sg.