How to Enhance Gains? Have a Protein Shake Before Bed

According to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, having a protein shake before bed is a unique nutritional window for boosting muscle gains, and late-night protein calories do not increase body fat.Casein point: Snijders’ seminal study

Lead author of the study Dr. Tim Snijders, Assistant Professor at Maastricht University, said: “Several one-night studies have shown that pre-sleep protein intake increases muscle protein synthesis during overnight sleep.

“These have fueled the idea that over a longer period, a pre-sleep protein supplement can maximize the strength and muscle mass gains during regular resistance exercise training.”

His team put 44 healthy young men on a 12-week lifting program. Half were given a nightly pre-sleep protein shake with about 30g of casein and 15 grams of carbs, while the other half got an energy-free drink.

The training was effective; both groups ended with a bigger squat (one rep max) and bigger quads, however the protein-before-bed group gained significantly more muscle strength and size.

Read: Light Lifting as Effective as Lifting Heavy

But are muscle gains boosted by pre-sleep protein per se, or just higher total intake of protein and calories?

Just one study has attempted – unsuccessfully – to test this question.

It showed that fat-free mass gains over 8 weeks of unaltered training in regular lifters were greater (+1.2 kg vs +0.4 kg) with a nightly casein supplement, compared to the same supplement taken in the morning.

Read: Why Recovering Men Need to Hit the Gym

The difference was not statistically significant however, perhaps because there were only 26 participants.

“Based on our own studies, we calculated that a huge number of participants would be needed to prove whether a difference might exist in response to pre-sleep protein, versus protein intake at other times of the day,” explains Snijders.

However, there are already numerous indirect indicators that pre-sleep protein specifically is beneficial for healthy young lifters.

“Sleep is a unique opportunity”

Fundamentally, pre-sleep protein can be used to improve protein intake distribution over the day, says Snijders.

Muscles can only grow and repair themselves when the right building blocks – amino acids from protein – are available in the blood.

But unlike blood glucose, the body does not store and release amino acids to maintain near-constant circulating levels.

But if pre-sleep protein consumption allows muscles to cram in more amino acids at night, will they simply use less during the day? Apparently not, claims Snijders.

“The muscle-building effects of protein supplementation at each meal seem to be additive.

“In one study we found that the consumption of ample amounts of protein (60g whey) before overnight sleep did not alter the muscle protein synthetic response to a high-protein breakfast the following morning.

“What’s more, others have shown that adding a protein supplement at bedtime does not affect appetite the following morning — so it is unlikely to compromise total protein or calorie intake.”

While the case for pre-sleep protein remains preliminary, is there any harm in trying it? After all, it does involve consuming calories just before a long period of inactivity.

The evidence is sparse, but encouraging.

Read more: Study: Muscle Memory Exists at a DNA Level

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