You should drink a protein shake before bed. We’ve all heard it, either from a friend, online article, or coach, that drinking a protein shake before bed, will help you build more muscle mass and strength. The question is though, does drinking a shake prior to sleep really help you achieve the gains and results you want as opposed to just drinking protein after your workout or during the day? We're going to find out.
Proposed Benefits Of Drinking Protein Before Bed
Builds Lean Muscle Mass
Several studies have shown that there are positive benefits of consuming protein before sleep on muscle protein synthesis and resting metabolic rate. A randomized, double-blind parallel study, published in the Journal of Nutrition investigated the effects of pre-sleep protein ingestion on muscle protein synthesis in older men, supplementing with 40G of Casein, 20G of Casein, 20G of Casein + 1.5G Leucine, or placebo. The study concluded that 40G of protein prior to sleep can support muscle mass preservation [R].
Improves Resting Metabolic Rate
If you can improve your resting metabolic rate, your body will burn more calories at rest. A study published in the journal Nutrients, compared the effects of Casein vs Whey, to test next morning resistance training performance, strength, and resting metabolic rate in physically active women. The study concluded that 48G of Casein, may illicit a novel change in resistance training performance, VO2 max, muscle protein synthesis and resting metabolic rate when supplemented before sleep. However, the study showed no significant difference between casein vs whey [R].
Improves Post Workout Recovery
Ensuring quick and efficient muscle recovery is one the most crucial components to optimize training and improve performance. Due to the slow amino-acid delivery of Casein, it is theorized that Casein can enhance muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle mass breakdown to a greater degree than if supplemented during the day to help optimize post-workout recovery. In a study published in Medicine in Science in Sports and Exercise, 16 male subjects performed a single bout of resistance training exercise in the evening. All subjects were provided with post-workout nutrition consisting of 20G of protein and 60G of carbohydrates in addition to 40G of casein protein, or placebo. The study concluded that protein ingested before sleep, was effectively digested and absorbed, advancing the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis and post-workout recovery [R].
The Problem With The Studies
Although these studies show a positive effect of supplementing protein on performance indicators, the problem is that they do not prove any substantiated evidence we don’t already know and that drinking protein before bed provides any real benefit as compared to drinking protein during the day. Of course, supplementing with protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis and helps rebuild and repair lean muscle mass no matter what time of day you take it at. Hundreds if not thousands of studies have already proven that whey, whey isolate, and casein, are great sources of protein to help illicit anabolic changes and build lean muscle mass and strength in addition to optimizing post-workout recovery. But, does it prove that you should drink a protein shake before bed? No. Additionally, in every study the supplement protocol, included 40G of casein or more. That’s a ton of protein. By supplementing that much protein, before bed you’re ingesting nearly 200 extra calories. So if your goal is to gain weight, then yes, drinking a protein shake before bed in addition to post-workout, will help you build more mass.
Should You Drink Casein Before Bed?
Casein protein has been suggested to help exercise performance and strength gains, due to its slow exogenous release of amino acids. Casein protein has a much thicker consistency and moves through the gastrointestinal tract more slowly providing a long-sustained release of amino acids also referred to as the ‘amino-acid drip’. This is why casein is marketed to be consumed before bed, so that you can get an overnight supply of amino acids, to increase the anabolic process of muscle protein synthesis and build more muscle mass and strength [R]. But remember when I said, casein or whey, will help build lean muscle mass and strength no matter what time of day you take it?
A study published in the Journal Of The International Society of Sports compared the effects of supplemental casein taken earlier in the day versus prior to sleep on body composition, strength, and hypertrophy. 13 male participated in a 10-week resistance training program while receiving 35G of Casein daily. No significant difference was shown between either group receiving casein prior to sleep or earlier in the day, on strength, mass, or performance [R].
Is There A Difference Between Casein & Whey For Performance?
A single glass of milk contains around 80% casein and 20% whey. If you were to let milk coagulate, casein would be the curd, while whey would be the liquid. This should give you an idea of the differences between how whey and casein are absorbed, which leads us into the main difference between whey and casein – absorption rate.
The biggest difference between whey vs. casein protein is the absorption rate. Casein and Whey are both very rich sources of protein and essential amino acids, which help build and rebuild lean muscle mass.
According to a study, which examined the differences between whey vs. casein pre and post-workout, the results indicated that there were no significant differences between whey vs. casein in regard to performance. Both groups experienced significant improvements in body composition, strength, and anaerobic performance when consuming either protein supplement pre- or post-exercise. However, no significant effects were observed between groups in changes in any variable [R].
Should You Drink Protein Before Bed? Takeaway
Dependent upon your protein intake goals and macros, drinking protein before bed provides no significant difference as compared to supplementing with protein earlier in the day. Additionally, even though Casein provides a slower release of amino acids and is absorbed over a longer period of time, there is no proven difference in performance indicators between casein and whey. If drinking protein before sleep, fits into your nutritional strategy and protocol, you’ll still benefit the same as drinking it during the day. Therefore, it really is just a matter of preference, on when you want to drink your protein, to meet your protein intake for the day.
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Madzima, Takudzwa A et al. “Pre-Sleep Consumption of Casein and Whey Protein: Effects on Morning Metabolism and Resistance Exercise Performance in Active Women.” Nutrients vol. 10,9 1273. 10 Sep. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10091273
Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, et al. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(8):1560-9.
Kouw IW, Holwerda AM, Trommelen J, et al. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Overnight Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates in Healthy Older Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2017;147(12):2252-2261.
Joy, Jordan M et al. “Daytime and nighttime casein supplements similarly increase muscle size and strength in response to resistance training earlier in the day: a preliminary investigation.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 15,1 24. 15 May. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0228-9