5 Healthy Evening Snack Ideas for Athletes
Planning a nutritious snack prior to bed can be a great way for athletes to support their sports nutrition goals. Equipping athletes with healthy evening snack ideas can be key for promoting recovery during sleep.
Ideas for What to Include in an Evening Snack
Athletes desiring to gain or maintain muscle mass should aim to consume an evening snack that provides a good source of protein. Consuming protein before sleep can help promote muscle protein synthesis during the overnight recovery period1.
In visiting with athletes, I often find their evening snacks to be lacking in protein. This is one area many athletes can capitalize on for improving their sports nutrition game plan.
In addition to protein, look for ways to add anti-inflammatory foods to your evening snacks. Consuming a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts can help support your sports nutrition goals.
5 Evening Snack Ideas for Athletes
Let’s take a look at 5 items that can make great additions to evening snacks for athletes.
#1 Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a great source of protein, providing ~28 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. The majority of protein in cottage cheese is casein protein, which is more slowly absorbed by the body compared to other types of protein. This makes cottage cheese an excellent, high-protein snack to have in the evening before bed.
Top your cottage cheese with fruit, such as pineapple, peaches, berries, or diced apples. Stirring in seeds or nuts can be another great way to boost the nutrient content of your cottage cheese. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, walnuts, or pistachios are all great additions.
#2 Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is another excellent option for adding protein to your evening snack. Greek yogurt contains ~21 grams of protein per cup, while regular yogurt has ~7 grams of protein. Making this simple yogurt switch can triple the protein content of your snack.
Consider making a Greek yogurt parfait with frozen berries and a whole grain cereal such as Kashi Go® Honey Almond Flax Crunch. This nutrient-packed evening snack provides protein, whole grains, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3s.
#3 Ultra-Filtered Milk
To provide a comparison, a cup of regular cow’s milk has 8 grams of protein. A cup of ultra-filtered milk has ~13 grams of protein, which is ~50% more than regular milk. Adding 2 cups of ultra-filtered milk to your evening snack could significantly boost your protein intake before bed.
Try pairing your ultra-filtered milk with a nutritious, whole grain breakfast cereal for a healthy evening snack. Add dried fruit, fresh berries, banana slices, or nuts to your bowl of cereal to further increase the nutrient content.
#4 High-Protein Waffles and Muffins
High-protein frozen waffles make for a quick and easy evening snack. Just pop them in the toaster and you have a high protein snack ready in minutes. Consider topping your waffles with nut butter for a delicious spread that contains healthy fats and protein.
Kodiak Cakes® frozen waffles are made with 100% whole grain and contain 10-12 grams of protein per waffle. They come in a variety of great flavors such as cinnamon, blueberry, and chocolate chip.
High-protein muffins can also make for a delicious evening snack. Take time to pre-make a batch on the weekend and enjoy the muffins all week long. Krusteaz® and Kodiak Cakes® both offer a variety of high-protein muffin mixes. Whether you prefer blueberry, banana nut, or chocolate chip, high-protein muffins can make a great option for your evening snack.
#5 Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin. Montmorency tart cherries, in particular, are rich in melatonin compared to other varieties2. In addition to melatonin, tart cherries have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
To maximize the benefits of tart cherries, consider drinking tart cherry juice. A 1-cup serving of cherries is equivalent to ~20 cherries. Drinking 1-cup of tart cherry juice is roughly the equivalent of consuming 50-60 cherries depending on the brand.
For athletes, regularly consuming tart cherry juice may be beneficial for both sleep and exercise recovery. Try adding a glass of tart cherry juice to your evening snack. If the tartness of tart cherry juice is too “tart” for your tastes, consider blending it into a smoothie or mixing with another juice.
Bonus Evening Snack Idea for Athletes – Fruit Smoothie
An easy way to make a power packed evening snack is with a fruit smoothie. By carefully selecting the ingredients added to the smoothie, you can create a nutrient-rich smoothie that supports your sports nutrition needs.
Add Protein to Your Smoothie
To increase the protein content of the smoothie, use some of the items discussed above, such as:
- Cottage Cheese – Even if you are not a fan of eating cottage cheese due to its texture, it works great blended into a smoothie. The cottage cheese gives the smoothie a creamy texture and is an easy way to boost the protein content of your drink.
- Greek Yogurt – Similar to cottage cheese, Greek yogurt blends well into a smoothie and is a great way to add in protein.
- Ultra-Filtered Milk – Makes a great lactose-free, high-protein liquid for your smoothie. For a change in flavor, try using chocolate ultra-filtered milk to create delicious smoothie flavors such as chocolate cherry or chocolate, peanut butter, and banana.
Include Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients
Including anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, and seeds in your smoothie can provided added benefit.
- Frozen fruit – Frozen fruit is flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness so it maintains a high nutrient content. Using a variety of fruits allows you to change the flavor each time you make the smoothie. Consider trying the following fruits in your smoothie:
- Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Tropical Fruits: Mango, pineapple, papaya
- Tart cherry juice
- Leafy greens such as kale or spinach
- Flaxseeds or Chia Seeds – Nutrient dense seeds that provide fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Plan Your Evening Snacks
You are now equipped with ideas for building a healthy evening snack. To be successful with incorporating these ideas into your sports nutrition meal plan, take time to plan what snacks you will have before bed. Consider meal prepping your evening snacks so you have healthy snacks ready when you are tired at the end of the day.
For additional suggestions on ways to meet your performance nutrition needs visit with a Registered Dietitian who can work with you on developing a customized sports nutrition meal plan.
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- Res, P. T., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G. A., Gijsen, A. P., Senden, J. M., & VAN Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 44(8), 1560–1569. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e31824cc363
- Burkhardt, S., Tan, D. X., Manchester, L. C., Hardeland, R., & Reiter, R. J. (2001). Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 49(10), 4898–4902. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf010321+