Finding ways to help optimize recovery and build muscle is often high on the priority list for gym-goers.
By scouring the internet and following your favorite bodybuilders, you probably know that protein intake is crucial to building muscle and aiding recovery.
Although protein timing is often over-hyped, the science around pre-bed protein consumption may be your answer to breaking through that muscle-building plateau.
So, should you have a protein shake before bed? Will consuming protein before bed help you build muscle faster?
That is exactly what we're going to look at in this article.
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Should You Have A Protein Shake Before Bed?
The big question! Chugging a protein shake straight before bed may seem a little weird to some, but there could be a reason bodybuilders have adopted this approach. But, does science support this muscle-building hack.
A study looking at the impact of pre-sleep protein ingestion concluded that "protein ingested prior to sleep is effectively digested and absorbed during sleep, thereby increasing plasma amino acid availability and stimulating muscle protein synthesis during overnight sleep in both young and old."
The same above study also suggested that the combination of protein ingestion before bed combined with a regular resistance training program can further augment gains in muscle mass and strength.
There are also long-term benefits, as the more efficient our recovery process, the quicker we can train those muscle groups again, speeding up our muscle and strength gains.
How Much Protein Should You Have Before Bed?
Now we understand that a protein shake before bed could have a positive impact on our muscle-building efforts, it's time to understand how much protein you should have before bed to build muscle.
A study by Tim Snidjers et al. looked at the impact of pre-sleep protein ingestion, concluding that "that ingesting a moderate amount (~30 g) of protein prior to sleep represents an effective intervention strategy to augment gains in skeletal muscle mass and strength during a resistance-type exercise training program."
Although participants have also been trialed on 20g and 40g, it was concluded that 30g of protein before bed was an adequate dosage.
What Is The Best Protein To Have Before Bed?
There are plenty of protein options on the market, from whey isolates to casein and plant-based protein, such as pea and soy.
Although whey protein is the fastest digesting, most popular form of protein supplement - you may be surprised to hear it's not the most effective when it comes to pre-bed protein shake ingestion.
Several studies have indicated the slow-digesting benefits of casein protein can provide the body with a more consistent and prolonged level of protein synthesis throughout.
When we go through long periods without eating or digesting food, such as during sleep, our body can begin to break down its muscle proteins, commonly known as catabolism (catabolic).
With casein protein being slow digesting, it essentially drip feeds your body with protein, giving it a viable source to digest and utilize for bodily functions and recovery.
Now, there's no need to go out and buy a different type of protein - whey protein has also been shown to have positive effects when consumed before sleeping.
Suppose you intend to replace your regular whey protein supplement in the future. In that case, a whey and casein blend may be a great versatile and cost-effective solution to provide both fast and slow-digesting protein sources.
Is There a Casein Protein Supplement For Vegans?
So, the good news is we've established a slow-digesting protein is best to consume before bed. The bad news? Casein is derived from milk, and therefore vegans or those sensitive to milk products may need to find an alternative.
Luckily, many plant-based protein supplements are generally slower to digest than whey protein - so some of the benefits can still be had from vegan protein supplements.
Combining the results of multiple studies, it's clear that consuming a moderate serving of protein before bed can positively impact protein synthesis, muscle growth, and strength.
However, it won't make up for inadequate sleep. Consuming a lot of liquid in your protein shake before bed may result in you waking up in the night for the toilet, so be sure to down your shake an hour or so before bed to give you the best chance of undisturbed sleep.
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WRITTEN BY: CHRIS BECK
Chris Beck is Senior Editor at Gymshark, with a passion for curating informative conditioning and health content. Chris is an experienced Personal Trainer, and also holds qualifications in Nutrition, Sports Performance and is a certified Crossfit Level 1 Trainer.