17 May Should You Eat Protein Before Bed? Benefits, Timing, and More
Eating protein before bed can help increase muscle growth and strength when paired with an effective resistance training routine. Many bodybuilders and professional athletes use this approach to maximize their gains, but it’s a tactic that anyone of any fitness level can use.
This guide will look at eating protein before bed and why it helps muscle growth. We’ll also explore some of the best protein-rich foods and supplements to consider.
Should You Eat Protein Before Bed?
According to a 2019 study from Maastricht University, protein consumption before bed helps increase muscle mass and strength gains following resistance exercise. The idea that protein intake before bed can help build muscle isn’t new, but this study proved that the pre-sleep window is an essential element.
Before this study was published, we lacked conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the time window before bed was important, not just daily protein intake. But, separately, sleep and protein are already essential to muscle growth — sleep improves post exercise overnight recovery, and you must meet your body’s protein needs to optimize muscle strength and size gains. Together, they’re even more powerful.
During overnight recovery, pre-sleep protein ingestion increases muscle protein synthesis rates while providing the necessary building blocks for muscle tissue repair and growth. Protein consumption before bed doesn’t seem to reduce appetite in the morning, decrease sleep quality, or change resting energy expenditure. In addition, protein supplementation is hypothesized to help older adults preserve muscle mass when combined with physical activity.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Dietary protein is one of three macronutrients — fat, carbohydrates (carbs), and protein — required in the body. It’s the essential macronutrient for muscle gains, and when you exercise regularly, you need to get enough protein to support muscle repair.
Your body can only absorb so much protein, and the amount of protein you need depends on your activity level and weight:
- Sedentary to moderately active: If you have low to moderate activity levels, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) per day is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. Some health conditions may increase nutritional demands, so ask your doctor or dietitian if you need help finding the right protein balance.
- Extremely active: If you’re highly active or trying to build/maintain muscle, you may need a high-protein diet with as much as 2 grams of protein or more per kilogram each day. Endurance athletes can require even more for peak performance.
It’s ideal to split your protein intake between your meals for the day, ensuring you’re getting some every time you eat. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, pre- or post-workout supplements, and nighttime protein consumption.
How Protein Works In the Body
When you eat or take a supplement, the digestive system begins the process of protein breakdown, deconstructing protein into amino acids — the building blocks of protein and muscle. Once digested, your body absorbs these amino acids to distribute and recombine throughout your body based on your current needs. The more bioavailable the protein source, the more your body can absorb.
Providing your body with high-quality protein before bed reduces fasting time, allowing you to continue providing your muscles with amino acids into the night. When your body repairs lean muscle, it relies on essential amino acids to build muscle size and strength. So, nighttime protein doesn’t just improve muscle protein synthesis, it provides additional building blocks for more efficient muscle repair.
Who Can Benefit From Protein Before Bed?
Most people who actively exercise can benefit from protein before bed. For example, it can help with the following goals:
- Building or maintaining muscle: If you’re actively using resistance training to build or maintain muscle mass, protein before bed can help you reach your goals faster.
- Avoiding nighttime snacks: If you wake up in the middle of the night too hungry to go back to bed, protein before bed can help improve satiety and keep you full until morning. This is especially true with a slow-digesting protein like casein.
- Improving weight loss: If you’re trying to lose weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise routine, protein before bed could help you increase your metabolic rate (aka your caloric burn at a state of rest). This means you can eat more without causing weight gain.
You’ll still need to fit your before-bed protein into your daily calorie count with the above goals. This is especially important for those working towards weight loss goals, but it’s true for everyone.
How to Get Your Nighttime Protein
High-quality protein sources are best, and that means whole foods and high-quality supplements, such as those from Ingredient Optimized. Ingredient optimization increases protein bioavailability, which allows your body to absorb more of the protein for use in muscle growth and repair.
Here are some excellent ways to get your protein before bed:
- Whey protein powder
- Casein protein powder
- Pea protein powder
- Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese
- Legumes and beans
- Nuts and seeds
- Poultry, fish, and tofu
You may want to experiment with what makes you feel best before bed and in the morning. For example, many people prefer a protein shake before bed because it feels lighter in the stomach and is quicker to make. Others might pick a handful of nuts or a serving of poultry.
Casein vs. Whey
The choice between casein and whey protein is a big one, and it’ll ultimately come down to preference.
- Casein: Casein protein powder and casein-rich foods (e.g., cottage cheese) are particularly popular because they are slow digesting. This means they can provide your body with protein over an extended period because they take longer to break down. In addition to aiding muscle growth, this can improve satiety and help you feel full until morning.
- Whey: Whey protein powder and whey-rich foods (e.g., ricotta cheese and Greek yogurt) are popular for the opposite reason — whey protein digests quickly. This can help those who struggle to fall asleep when they feel full.
Whatever you choose, it’s essential to focus on the quality of your supplement. Your body needs good protein sources to build muscle effectively, and quality usually matters more than the type of protein.
Benefits of Ingredient Optimized Protein
Eating protein before bed is an excellent way to support your body in increasing muscle size and strength. But you want your body to be able to use all of the protein you’re feeding it before you fall asleep, and for that, you want sources with high bioavailability.
Whole foods and Ingredient Optimized supplements are best for this, and many athletes prefer supplements because it’s easier to get more protein in a smaller meal. This is useful for those who require a high amount of protein every day and those who struggle to fall asleep when feeling full.
Low-quality protein supplements may have low bioavailability, meaning that your body can’t absorb all of the protein you see on the label. As a result, you end up paying for protein that’s getting flushed from your system unused. With high-quality, ingredient-optimized supplements, you can sleep sure that you’re getting as much protein as possible from your meal.
Support Your Body 24/7
Sleep is essential, but spending eight or more hours in a fasted state is not. Instead, you can support your body overnight, aiding in muscle growth and repair, with nighttime protein intake. If you want an easy, tasty way to get your protein before bed, we recommend Ingredient Optimized supplements.