Ever get the munchies late at night? Fret not--you're definitely not the only one.

Even better news? Despite what you may have heard about late-night snacking as a direct cause of weight gain, studies show that may not be true at all.

When the sun sets and nighttime rolls around, on a physiological level, nothing changes in our bodies. There is no legitimate reason for food consumption after a certain hour to be any better or worse than eating earlier in the day. On the contrary, we can actually turn mindless late-night munching into something positive for our bodies.

Eat protein before bed for muscle growth

Consuming substantial protein is actually one of the most popular ways for bodybuilders to bulk up. Although it is common belief that our bodies proceed to stop digesting food after we fall asleep, it turns out that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a 2012 Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise study reported that protein consumed right before bed promotes muscle growth and repair--key factors in staying fit and healthy.

Eat carbs before bed for hunger control

Now, this advice may go against everything you think you know about maintaining a successful health regime, but it turns out that there may be a method to the madness. Eating adequate amounts of carbohydrates before heading off to sleep actually preps your body for the long wait before your next meal, triggering hormonal changes to reduce hunger.

A 2011 study in Obesity and Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease put a group of 63 obese police officers on two different diets: one where carbohydrates were spread evenly throughout the day and the other where the vast majority of carbohydrates consumed were at dinnertime. The results reported that, of the two groups, the one consuming mostly carbs at dinner was actually less hungry over long periods of time.

So, next time you reach for that late-night snack, keep in mind that as long as what you're consuming is generally healthy, it's probably not that bad for you. Eat your heart out; there's no reason to freak out.

Published on: Oct 1, 2015