Protein shakes have always been a healthy go-to for breakfast, and a staple for pre or post workout fuel, but have you ever thought about drinking a protein shake shortly before you go to sleep? Studies have suggested you might want to consider adding this unlikely step to your nighttime routine. Whether you’re a man, woman, athlete, or senior, it seems like everyone can find a benefit to downing a protein shake before they retire for the night.
Everyone has heard about the health benefits of drinking a glass of water before bed, but some may be skeptical about drinking an entire protein shake before they go to sleep. Experts have conducted several studies on the topic, and the results have shown that taking 30-40 grams of protein before bed can help promote weight loss, stimulate muscle growth, and help preserve muscle mass. Below are several examples of the tests that were done and their outcomes.
For Weight Loss – There was a study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism in January 2015 where overweight women were given a casein protein shake before bedtime, and they found they were less hungry in the morning when it came time for breakfast if they combined exercise with a pre-sleep shake.
In addition, researchers in the January 2014 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition said “getting protein or carbs before sleeping may boost morning metabolism,” When you have a faster metabolism, you’re able to burn calories at a higher rate. Therefore, drinking protein before bed can help you advance your weight loss efforts. Just make sure you account for the extra calories in your diet to make sure you don’t go over your limit. A protein shake is usually around 160-300+ calories, depending if you add the extra goodies like fruit, milk, and almond butter.
For Muscle Growth – Ingesting enough protein is essential for individuals who want to increase muscle mass and stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Like we mentioned earlier, most people use protein shakes pre or post workout, but you might enjoy the results if you tried drinking one before you get ready for bed.
According to Oxford Academic, “a proper distribution (both timing and quantity) of protein intake is essential to allow protein supplementation to increase muscle mass, strength, and function, which includes presleep protein ingestion.”
One study by Dr. Tim Snijders, Assistant Professor at Maastricht University, proved this hypothesis best when he took 44 healthy younger men, and put them on a 12-week lifting and protein shake regiment. He gave half of them a protein shake with 30g of casein before bed, and the other half a placebo. In the end, those who ingested a pre-sleep protein shake saw a larger increase in the size of their muscles and strength.
Preserving Muscle – In a review article from Frontiers in Nutrition, “pre-sleep protein ingestion has been hypothesized to be a viable option to increase dietary protein intake to attenuate the loss of muscle mass with aging in older adults…In a recent study, we provided 40 g of casein protein prior to sleep in older adults and demonstrated an increase in overnight muscle protein synthesis rates.”
As one gets older, muscle mass naturally begins to decline due to inactivity and a deficit in muscle protein synthesis. Drinking protein shakes, especially before bed, is a good way for seniors to retain their strength and muscle without engaging in a strenuous workout.
Some people may think it sounds counterproductive to drink a protein shake before bedtime if you’re trying to get a decent night’s sleep, but again, the proof is in the pudding. In fact, Dr. Tim Snijder who we mentioned earlier said in his study said, “it has been consistently shown that pre-sleep protein ingestion has no effect on sleep onset latency or sleep quality.” You just need to make sure you use the right kind of protein, or else you might get an unwanted surge of energy at the absolute worst time.
There’s an overwhelming amount of different protein powders on the market to choose from, but there are a few you’ll want to consider first, and some you may want to stay away from. This is particularly true if you’re looking for a pre-sleep protein.
Casein – In most of the successful studies where folks didn’t notice a decline in their quality of sleep, they drank protein shakes made with casein. This is because casein is a slow digesting protein found in milk, and it gradually releases a low level of amino acids to your cells after you ingest it.
Whey – Whey is the other protein found in milk next to casein, but it has the opposite effect in that it’s rapidly digested and it stimulates muscle protein synthesis at a higher rate, but for a shorter period of time. This makes it one of the best types of proteins to take after a workout, but we’re not sure about the effect it’ll have on your sleep since there isn’t much research using whey protein as a pre-sleep supplement. We suggest you stick to casein before bed until more experimentation is done if you’re trying to maximize your gains, unless of course, you’re looking for a plant-based protein.
Soy – Soy protein is one of the most popular forms of protein powder, especially for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant. It’s a complete protein like casein and whey, meaning it has all the amino acids your body needs, but cannot make itself. It performed better than casein at muscle protein synthesis, but worse than whey protein. Again, there isn’t a ton of research on the matter, but it could be due to a slower digestion rate. Because of this, soy protein would probably be a better option to take before bed than whey protein.
Some men feel negatively towards soy protein because they think it can lower their testosterone levels, but there’s a clinical study published on Pubmed which says there’s no strong evidence to support this claim.