The Latest Science on Nighttime Protein

Nighttime ProteinA recent Japanese study took a look at protein timing, and specifically the timing before going to sleep. Traditional “bro-science” has maintained for many years that muscle growth is optimized with a relatively even protein intake throughout the day. However, these researchers found that consuming a disproportionate amount of protein at breakfast and lunch adversely affected muscle protein synthesis.

The Study

The researchers found that feeding a group of participant a high-protein breakfast put on over 40% MORE muscle than a control group eating a low-protein breakfast, even with both groups eating the same total daily amount of protein. This is great.

However, the reality is that the majority of people, including athletes, are essentially on a protein “fast” when they go to sleep. In other words, as they sleep, they are going from 8-12 hours without any protein. So, the common sense solution would be to eat some protein just before bed, right?

Well, this study dug deep into that and tested it, findng that it’s far more important to adopt this pre-bed habit than it is to get even amounts throughout the day, or even to get a high intake at breakfast.

Meta-Study

This study was a meta-study that analyzed nine different articles related to nighttime protein consumption, and its effects on muscle protein synthesis. The conclusion of the researchers follows:

“The consumption of 20-40 grams of casein approximately 30 minutes before sleep stimulates whole-body protein synthesis. The conclusion of the researchers follows:

“The consumption of 20-40 grams of casein approximately 30 minutes before sleep stimulates whole-body protein synthesis rates over a subsequent overnight period in young and elderly men (preceded or not by resistance exercise, respectively). In addition, pre-sleep protein consumption can augment the muscle adaptive response (muscle fiber cross-sectional area, strength, and muscle mass) during 10-12 weeks of resistance training in young, but not in elderly men.”

A side note of interest, was that pre-sleep protein didn’t do much of anything for endurance athletes.

Practical Tips

If you are a strength athlete or interested in building muscle (which you should be if you are alive and breathe oxygen), then eating some protein before going to sleep is something that you need to do. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be in the form of a giant shake with gallons of liquid that will make you get up and pee multiple times during the night. Simply add 1 scoop of casein powder to a little bit of water. Or add 1 scoop into some greek yogurt to make a high protein, delicious pudding.

References:

Effects of pre-sleep protein consumption on muscle-related outcomes – A systematic review

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