Protein is anabolic. We all know that.
But is there an extra hypertrophy benefit, a secret strategy, to the specific timing of your protein intake?
Eating protein every 4-5 hours will help to keep muscle protein synthesis elevated throughout the day. Once amino acids drop in the blood, protein synthesis also drops. We can maintain protein intake during the day, but we can’t do that when we’re sleeping 8 hours unless we’re fed through a test tube, but that is not very practical.
Certain protein sources are slow digesting, such as casein, which is able to keep on releasing amino acids in the blood 7 hours after it’s been consumed. This sparked the interest in doing research to see if consuming additional protein supplementation before going to bed will promote hypertrophy to a greater extent.
Here’s what they found:
- Protein supplementation taken before bed increases muscle protein synthesis (MPS) as any other protein meal would. 40g pre-sleep increased muscle protein synthesis rates by ~22% compared to placebo (R).
- Doing weights in the evening and then consuming casein further boosted the increase in MPS (just like training and taking a protein supplement any other time of the day).
“we have clearly shown that resistance-type exercise augments the overnight skeletal muscle adaptive response, with myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates being 37% higher when 30 g of pre-sleep protein (casein) ingestion is combined with a single session of resistance type exercise in the evening compared with pre-sleep protein ingestion only. Furthermore, the application of intrinsically labeled pre-sleep protein allowed us to demonstrate that 76% more of the pre-sleep protein derived amino acids were incorporated in myofibrillar protein when earlier that evening individuals engaged in a single resistance exercise session.” (R)
- Protein ingestion the night before increases the resting energy expenditure (REE) the following day, more so than carbs (R), without reducing fat oxidation.
- Casein before bed speeds up recovery in soccer players, but it needs to be determined if it was the protein timing or just an increase in total daily protein intake (R).
- Whey supplementation before bed showed no statistical significant difference in fat-free mass gains when compared to protein supplemented in the morning, however, the observed increase in fat-free mass was numerically greater when casein was ingested in the evening compared with the morning (+1.2 kg vs. +0.4 kg, respectively) (R). However, another study found that 35g of casein in the day or at night didn’t provide a difference in hypertrophy of strength (R). “The results support the strategy of achieving specific daily protein levels versus specific timing of protein ingestion for increasing muscle mass and performance.“
- At least they found that – “our studies have shown no effect of pre-sleep protein ingestion on sleep onset latency, sleep quality, and/or next morning appetite in both young and older individuals.” So at least there are no side effects to taking big doses of protein before bed.
So what’s the conclusion?
Better studies are needed to conclude if there is really a meaning benefit to it, but the research is currently more in favor of evenly spaced total daily protein intake over specific timings. So if pre-sleep protein has a benefit or not, I still think it’s a good idea to have a nice protein meal somewhere close to bed just to provide amino acids during the night.
So, protein before bed is just as important as any other meal. Is there an extra benefit to eating protein before bed compared to the benefit of any other meal? Probably not…but it’s still important.
Natural sources such as beef, dairy, eggs, chicken, etc., combined with carbs and fats should digest slowly and provide sufficient amino acids 7 hours and more after being eaten. But if you struggle with protein intake, getting a supplement can greatly help with that. I’d advise a good casein protein powder with about a serving of 35-40g protein being optimal.