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Forget what you've heard about eating at night making you fat-new research shows a bedtime snack may help you burn more calories. [Tweet this news!]

In one Florida State University study, fit college-age men who consumed a 150-calorie carb- and protein-rich shake 30 to 60 minutes before bed increased their metabolisms. When researchers did the same experiment with young obese women, they saw improvements in blood pressure and metabolic function.

These metabolic gains after a bedtime snack hold true especially for people who are active: "If you exercise regularly, eating some small portions before bed can ramp up morning metabolism," says researcher Mike Ormsbee, Ph.D., an FSU assistant professor of exercise science. While improvements were found no matter what the men ate, based on other studies, he says protein may be best because it may help aid muscle repair overnight.

Active women haven't been studied yet, but Ormsbee believes their metabolisms would also increase.

Based on his findings, he says setting a "cut-off" time for eating food should be a thing of the past. Being less rigid about eating times may benefit people trying to lose weight in other ways too: Another study shows that people who know they can eat again after dinner often have smaller helpings at dinner, regardless of whether or not they snack again later.

So the next time you crave a midnight snack-or even one at 8 or 9 p.m.-go ahead and chow down. Just try to keep it to 150 calories and make sure it's packed with protein, like one of Jillian Michaels' fave snacks: a hard-boiled egg and fruit. You may actually be doing your waistline a favor.

More of a daytime eater? Here are some foods that increase metabolism no matter when you eat them!

By Elizabeth Simmons for