Published February 12. 2021 10:56PM
Here’s a somewhat unsettling fact. When you think you’ve decided something suddenly, you’re wrong.
But it’s not your decision that’s erroneous. It’s the “suddenly” part.
In 2008, professor John-Dylan Haynes and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany used brain scans to determine that your subconscious knows what you ultimately decide up to 7 seconds faster than you do. In other words, it’s your conscious mind who’s the slow kid in class.
You’re being schooled on the mind, oddly enough, because I wanted to know what caused me to suddenly start eating massive amounts of fat-free cottage cheese – 120 ounces a week – as the main ingredient in a high-protein snack I created nearly 12 years ago.
I remember lying in a hospital bed, thinking of things I could do to help my fractured femur heal as fast as possible. Eating fat-free cottage cheese – morning, noon, and night – just suddenly occurred to me.
I had not been eating any before the bicycle crash. I had not really enjoyed eating it with peaches or strawberries in fifth grade during a successful attempt to shed about 10 pounds of baby fat.
Yes, I knew eating any type of extra protein could help the fracture fuse together faster, but why didn’t I think to drink a few more protein shakes instead?
Despite doing a fair amount of research, I still can’t tell you exactly why. But I can tell you if you like eating a late-night snack, it makes sense for it to be mostly cottage cheese.
Whether designed to create weight loss or enhance health, virtually all diets now limit simple sugars, especially added ones, while increasing the consumption of protein. The variety of cottage cheese I use contains less than one-third natural sugar, no added sugars, and more than two-thirds protein.
In addition, 80 percent of the protein in all types of cottage cheese is casein. Compared to whey, the protein usually featured in protein powders, casein digests at a slower rate, limiting the secretion of insulin and providing a longer feeding of protein to your muscles.
All of this makes cottage cheese an effective weight-loss, weight-maintenance, and muscle-maintenance aid – especially if it replaces the typical late-night snack.
While many still believe that eating before bedtime promotes weight gain, studies using cottage cheese contradict that. A study performed at Florida State University and published in the November 2018 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, for example, found no gain in body fat when 10 active women in their 20s ate 160 calories of fat-free cottage cheese two hours after a standard supper and 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
Additionally, the women reported no significant changes in early-morning hunger.
Hunger is always an issue for the obese, especially at night. Yet a study performed at Florida State University and published in the July 2016 issue of Nutrients found that consuming casein before sleep did not effect fat or glucose metabolism in young obese male adults when compared to a calorie-free placebo.
In other words, whether they are trying to lose weight or not, those who are obese and eat casein-loaded cottage cheese late at night help their health.
For years, bodybuilders have consumed protein before bedtime and even in the middle of the night to counteract the catabolizing of muscle that can occur whenever the body goes more than a few hours without food. A similar loss of muscle occurs from aging, beginning sometime in your 30s.
It’s called sarcopenia, gets exacerbated by poor diet and a lack of exercise, and increases with age – so much so that it’s not unusual to lose 30 percent of your muscle between the ages of 50 and 70.
Because of this, researchers at the University of Birmingham School of Sport, Exercise, and Rehabilitation Sciences in the United Kingdom tested the effects of consuming casein protein before bedtime for those in their 70s. After a typical supper, 12 subjects consumed either a 40-gram protein drink, a sugar-based drink of equal calories, or a no-calorie placebo before bedtime.
The results published in the December 2019 issue of Nutrients determined no differences in next-morning appetite, energy intake, or resting metabolic rate, leading the researchers to conclude that 160 calories of protein before bed is “a viable strategy to increase daily protein intake in an older population.”
It’s also a viable strategy for you, regardless of age.
My present strategy: a late-night blend of fat-free cottage cheese, calorie-free chocolate syrup, stevia and erythritol for sweetening, with a bit of xanthan gum to create a pudding-like consistency once refrigerated. I eat the same for breakfast, but have begun eating other high-protein snacks between lunch and supper, so my consumption of fat-free cottage cheese has decreased to 72 ounces a week these last few months.