According to a new study from Florida State University (FSU), nutrition researchers looked at the effect of protein consumption before bed on physically active, resistance–trained women.
In the study conducted with female weight lifters, the scientists showed that protein consumption before bed compared with protein consumption during the day does not have a negative effect on belly fat metabolism or whole-body fat burn overnight. These findings challenge long-term and widespread misconceptions about the relationship between nighttime eating and weight gain, particularly with women.
Study author Michael Ormsbee, PhD, FACSM, FISSN, CSCS remarks “For far too long, people have been led to believe that eating before bed causes metabolic disturbances and will make them gain fat. However, the data simply does not support this when the food we choose to eat before bed is protein-based and small in size.”
In the study, Ormsbee and his team used two experimental conditions to investigate fat metabolism in a sample of women weight lifters.
- In one condition, the participants drank a protein shake 30 minutes after a workout and a taste-matched placebo shake 30 minutes before bed.
- In the 2nd condition, the study participants drank the shakes in the reverse order.
The goal was to investigate how drinking a protein shake before bed influenced overnight metabolism of fat in fit women versus drinking the same protein shake at another time of day. Researchers used a strategic measurement approach designed to fully assess the complex, multi-step process of overnight fat metabolism, as such:
- They documented participants’ fat release from fat cells, in order to analyze whether the timing of protein consumption was linked to their cells’ ability to release stored body fat into surrounding tissue.
- Next, the researchers used breath measurements to evaluate the fat oxidation of participants, meaning their capacity to burn the fat released as energy in the muscles.
The research team’s measurements revealed that, for women who strength train, “the well-known benefits of a nighttime, high-protein snack far outweigh the costs.” FSU doctoral student Brittany Allman, who is now at the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center says “in women who weight train, there are no differences in overnight local belly fat metabolism or whole-body fat burn whether you eat protein in the form of a protein shake during the day post-workout or at night presleep. So, essentially, you can eat protein before bed and not disturb fat metabolism.”
“There are such bad misconceptions about eating at night, that it will ‘make me gain weight’ or ‘slow my metabolism,’” she says. “The research suggests that really only holds true if you’re eating a ton of calories and they are carbohydrate and/or fat laden. There are so many potential beneficial effects of eating protein at night, and it will be extremely important to take all of this science to the community to try to change the outlook of these dietary habits.”