Drinking a Protein Shake Before Bed: Pros, Cons & More

Posted in  Nutrition  on  August 19, 2021 by  Welcyon Team

Protein shakes are becoming increasingly popular and there are plenty of reasons for this. The most obvious is that they allow people to take in more protein than they can by eating meat.

This helps people train better because they're able to push themselves harder as a result of getting additional energy from these supplements.

However, what you may not know is that quality protein shakes also double up as excellent pre-sleep elixirs for those looking to rest their tired minds and bodies.

Here's an explanation from our resident dietitian.

Benefits of Drinking a Protein Shake Before Bed

To be honest, most athletes hate to do it, but consuming one more protein shake before retiring to bed may just help you recover faster after a tiring workout. Here’s why:

Promotes Muscle Growth and Preservation

Leading nutritionists found that drinking a protein shake at night is the best way to grow muscles. This is because it's important to have consistent muscle protein synthesis (MPS) throughout the day and night to sustain muscle protein growth. [1]

Keeping active is great, but it can come at a cost. Exercise causes your body to go through cycles of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and breakdown (MPB). While MPS is important for building and repairing muscle tissue, MPB increases with resistance training, which leads to the depletion of glycogen stores in the periphery. [2]

If you want to build muscle, drinking a protein shake before bed is your best bet. This lets your body recover from muscle loss that occurs throughout the night.

Luckily, there's a scientifically proven way to avoid MBP, and you don't even have to get up in the middle of the night. Before going to sleep, make sure you've consumed a sufficient amount of protein within the hour before bedtime.

Improves Recovery

One study found that ingesting protein before bed helps your body recover more efficiently after a hard workout. In the study, muscle protein synthesis rates were higher in those who ate protein before bed than in those who didn't. Those who consumed protein before sleeping had a better net protein balance as well. [3]

Additionally, the researchers discovered that the protein can be digested and absorbed more effectively at night when amino acid availability is highest.

Improves Performance

Consuming a protein shake before bed may improve athletic performance in addition to increasing strength gains and lean muscle mass.

Studies have shown that this simple home-based solution can assist with overnight muscle reconditioning, as well as improve performance during weight-bearing exercises, providing athletes with a greater ability to exercise for longer periods without exhaustion. [4]

Improves Energy

Supplements containing proteins are important to take before hitting the gym. And a protein-rich supplement after a hard workout generally helps accelerate your muscle repair time, thereby improving your energy efficiency.

Post-workout, you can enjoy optimal recovery and muscle growth when you supplement your body with 40 grams of protein. [5] The optimal time to consume a protein shake for maximum recovery improvement is 2 hours before you go to bed.

Helps Weight Loss

Admittedly, the idea of burning calories while asleep may seem hard to believe. But if you want to lose a couple pounds, you should try drinking a protein shake before bed. This will help your body burn calories while you're soundly asleep.

Drinking protein shakes leads to a boost in metabolism. Your body needs more energy to digest and absorb the protein, leading to more calories burned while sleeping. [6]

As you probably know, if you're trying to lose weight, you'll have to watch your calorie intake. For example, 40 grams of casein protein powder has 160 calories when mixed into a glass of water. Mixing it with milk or into a smoothie may cause you to consume more calories than you initially wanted.

Furthermore, a high-protein diet will help suppress the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating appetite, and encourage the secretion of leptin. Increased levels of leptin will signal to your brain that you’re full, which can help you lose weight. [7]

Enhances Sleep Quality

The amino acid tryptophan, which is found in milk, eggs, tuna, and other seafood products, has been shown to improve our sleep patterns. Tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin and melatonin, both of which heighten feelings of relaxation and can make it easier for you to switch off at the end of the day. [8]


Cons of Taking Protein Before Bed

Now that we've listed some of the perks that come along with consuming protein shakes before bed, we also want to make it clear that it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

It Might Mess Up Your Circadian Rhythm

Your body has a circadian rhythm that is consistent every day. The cycle affects when you sleep and when you get hungry. [9]

Your hormones—melatonin, cortisol, and others—also follow your circadian rhythm. These levels may be off (too high one day and too low the next) if your circadian rhythm is disturbed or changed. This can lead to issues like depression or anxiety and even to diseases like cancer.

Light exposure is fundamental to setting your circadian rhythm, so there's no denying that food intake also affects this cycle. Eating late at night, for example, can seriously affect your sleep pattern because it alters your 24-hour biological profile. While eating protein before bed might help you build muscle or improve performance in the short term, it probably wouldn't be wise to stick to this regimen long-term. [10]

Increases glucose and insulin levels

Whey protein can increase your insulin levels. While the insulin spike from whey is helpful for post-workout muscle-building, and there is currently no evidence that whey protein leads to insulin resistance, it might be good to stay on the safe side just in case. [11]


Which Types of Protein Are Best to Consume Before Bed?

Whey, casein, soy, pea, and rice proteins are the primary types of protein powders to power your body.

1

Whey protein is the most popular source of protein for athletes and active people looking for quick-digesting proteins that allow your muscles to replenish themselves rapidly. [12]

2

On the other hand, casein protein is the most researched protein type because it has a slow rate of digestion and absorption. It will sustain you for much longer than other protein sources due to its ability to keep you satiated. [13]

3

Soy protein has proven itself again and again because it boasts an anti-catabolic effect, reducing muscle's breakdown rate significantly while also being rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including iron.

4

If you are lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan, hemppea, and rice protein powders might be on your shopping list. However, soy is the only plant-based protein option containing adequate levels of all the essential amino acids. [1415]


Check out the best protein powders out there:


Who Should Drink a Protein Shake Before Bed?

If you're trying to gain muscle mass or improve your athletic performance, think about drinking a protein shake before going to bed. Protein shakes are especially beneficial if you exercise regularly and don't already get enough protein in your diet.

If gaining muscle mass or increasing recovery and performance is not a priority for you, protein shakes before bed may not be necessary. Also, remember that slow-acting protein shakes may need to be consumed earlier in the day because someone who trains later in the day will benefit more from these types of shakes.

Conclusion

Not only is it easy to drink a protein shake before bed, but it can also be beneficial to consume protein in the evening hours. Although you get your initial protein during the day by eating food, drinking a protein shake before bedtime can aid in building and repairing muscle and help keep your body ready for a great workout performance.


References:

1. Tim Snijders, Jorn Trommelen, Imre W. K. Kouw, Andrew M. Holwerda, Lex B. Verdijk, Luc J. C. van Loon, The Impact of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion on the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise in Humans: An Update, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6415027/
2. P. J. Atherton, K. Smith, Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3381813/
3. Peter Res, Bart Groen, Bart Pennings, Beelen Milou, Gareth A. Wallis, Annemie P. Gijsen, Joan M. G. Senden, Luc J. C. van Loon, Protein Ingestion before Sleep Improves Postexercise Overnight Recovery, retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2012/08000/Protein_Ingestion_before_Sleep_Improves.20.aspx
4. Tim Snijders, Peter T. Res, Joey S. J. Smeets, Stephan van Vliet, Janneau van Kranenburg, Kamiel Maase, Arie K. Kies, Lex B. Verdijk, Luc J. C. van Loon, Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men, retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25926415/
5. Jorn Trommelen, Luc J. C. Van Loon, Pre-Sleep Protein Ingestion to Improve the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise Training, retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/12/763
6. Jessica DiGiacinto, Alina Petre, MS, RD (NL), Alissa Palladino, MS, RDN, LD, CPT, How Protein Shakes Can Help You Lose Weight, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-shakes-weight-loss
7. David S. Weigle, Patricia A. Breen, Colleen C. Matthys, Holly S. Callahan, Kaatje E. Meeuws, Verna R. Burden, Jonathan Q. Purnell, A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations, retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16002798/
8. Trisha A. Jenkins, Jason C. D. Nguyen, Kate E. Polglaze, Paul P. Bertrand, Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728667/
9. Eric Suni, Alex Dimitriu, Circadian Rhythm, retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm
10. Makayla Meixner MS, RDN, Does Eating Late at Night Cause Weight Gain?, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eating-at-night
11. Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D., Megan Ware, RDN, L.D., Are protein shakes okay for people with diabetes?, retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313553
12. Maria Fischer, Tara D. Thies, What is the easiest protein to digest?, retrieved from https://www.gainful.com/blog/what-is-the-easiest-protein-to-digest/
13. Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN, Why Casein Is One of The Best Proteins You Can Take, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/casein-protein-is-highly-underrated
14. Aaron Michelfelder, MD, Soy: A Complete Source of Protein, retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0101/p43.html
15. Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND, Pea protein is everywhere, is it healthy?, retrieved from https://www.aicr.org/resources/blog/health-talk-pea-protein-is-everywhere-is-it-healthy/

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