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How Protein Before Bed Promotes Muscle Repair During Sleep

How Protein Before Bed Promotes Muscle Repair During Sleep

Post-workout protein supplementation — in the form of a protein shake or meal — has won wide acceptance as the best way to replenish and maximise muscle growth. In recent years, however, a growing body of research proposes that consuming protein before bed could offer increased health benefits for muscle protein synthesis — that is, creating protein molecules in the body.i

Here, we explore the relationship between protein and sleep, interrogating the science and research behind the latest claims. We’ll also investigate how best to optimise your protein consumption for muscle repair. 


What does protein do to your body?

Composed of long-chain amino acids, protein is an essential macronutrient (a chemical that provides the body with energy) found in every cell in the human anatomy.ii

Protein plays many roles in the body. Besides giving you a strong structural framework and supporting cell repair and renewal, protein oversees essential life functions and aids with metabolic reactions.iii This important nutrient also helps with proper fluid and pH balance, immunity, and can act as an energy supplier, if required.iv

Commonly found in animal-based products, protein is also present in other plant-based sources, like legumes and nuts. However, unlike other macronutrients  (fat and carbohydrates) the body doesn’t store protein, so adequate and regular intake is essential.v

As you workout, you effectively break down your muscles. Because of its ability to repair and rebuild muscle, everyone needs protein after exercise, not just athletes.vii Without protein to refuel and restore, you risk injuring your muscles and derailing your training.

For a normal adult, the protein requirements are roughly  0.75 grams per kilogram of body weight each day.vii Endurance and strength athletes, however, need approximately 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.viii If you exercise regularly, your protein needs will be slightly higher than the general sedentary population.


What are the benefits of consuming protein before bed?

Extracting the amino acids from protein, muscles repair and rebuild themselves in sleep. Crucially, human growth hormone (HGH) is released by the brain and increases as the body rests.9  HGH bolsters muscle growth, decreases fat, and supports overall restoration.

Research shows that if you ingest a sufficient amount of protein just before bed, you can capitalise on the spike in HGH and optimise muscle gains.x By injecting the body with a hit of amino acids, you provide it with the fuel it needs for growth and repair.

One study examined how protein consumption before sleep elevates post-workout overnight recovery.xi Sixteen healthy young males performed one session of resistance training exercise in the evening, after which the whole group was given appropriate recovery nutrition. Later half the men ate 40 grams of protein, and half were given a placebo, before going to bed. The findings revealed that protein was better digested and absorbed by the group given extra protein before bed than the placebo group. The whole-body protein synthesis levels were superior, too. It would seem then, that when pre-sleep protein intake is combined with evening exercise, overnight protein synthesis rates are further increased.

Another study assessed how consuming protein before bed may improve muscle growth.xii Participants included 48 healthy, older men who ingested either 40 grams of protein, 20 grams of protein, or the placebo just before sleeping. Those who consumed 40 grams of protein exhibited the best results, with increased rates of protein synthesis and amino acids. This case highlights that consuming dietary protein before bed can stimulate muscle growth, even in less active and older people.

It’s worth noting, however, these studies were somewhat limited. It remains unclear whether muscle gains were the result of protein intake specifically before bed or total daily protein. To date, no study has addressed this issue.

Despite this, current findings still present overnight sleep as a unique nutritional window for increasing muscle gains.xiii Indeed, the International Society of Sports Nutrition now adopts the standpoint that 30-40g of casein protein can significantly increase muscle protein synthesis throughout the night.xiv 


How best to optimise protein consumption

Protein sources vary in their capacity to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. That’s why the type of protein you consume before bed is particularly important. In most of the existing studies, researchers have used casein protein. Casein is a complete protein that allows a slow release of amino acids throughout the night.xv Sources of casein protein include milk, cottage cheese, and Greek yoghurt.

Empirical data also purports that quality animal-based protein can improve overnight muscle protein synthesis rates.xvi Chicken breast and lean steak are considered good options, while low-fat milk, low-fat yoghurt, cooked eggs are nutrient-dense vegetarian sources.

The amount of protein can make a difference, too. As demonstrated in the findings of International Society of Sports Nutrition, most studies suggest that consuming 40 grams of protein before bed is optimal to maximise muscle repair and growth.xvii

Overall, there’s enough evidence to support the idea of using pre-sleep protein as a nutritional strategy to increase muscle strength and growth. So, if you’re looking for a way to encourage muscle gains from your workouts, you may want to consider adding more protein to your late-night routine.

If you would like more information on sleep processes, how to improve your sleep, or common sleep conditions and treatments, why not visit our dedicated sleep health hub?
 



References:

  1. , , , , & The Impact of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion on the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise in Humans: An Update. Frontiers in Nutrition. 6.

  2. Livescience.com. What Is Protein?. Available online: https://www.livescience.com/53044-protein.html

  3. Healthline. 9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body. Available online: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/functions-of-protein#section9

  4. Healthline. 9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body. Available online: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/functions-of-protein#section9

  5. WedMD. The Benefits of Protein. Available online: https://www.webmd.com/men/features/benefits-protein

  6. , , , , , , , , , , & International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 5(1).

  7. British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition for sport and exercise. Available online: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/an-active-lifestyle/eating-for-sport-and-exercise.html?start=2

  8. British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition for sport and exercise. Available online: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/an-active-lifestyle/eating-for-sport-and-exercise.html?start=2

  9. Tuck Sleep. How Sleep Affects Your Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Levels - Tuck Sleep. Available online: https://www.tuck.com/sleep-hgh

  10. Healthline. Protein Before Bed to Gain Muscle. Available online: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/protein-before-bed#research

  11. , , , , , , & Protein Ingestion before Sleep Improves Postexercise Overnight Recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 44(8), 1560-1569.

  12. , , et al. rotein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Overnight Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates in Healthy Older Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition. 147(12), 2252-2261.

  13. , et al. The Impact of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion on the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise in Humans: An Update. Frontiers in Nutrition. 6.

  14. , , et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 5(1).

  15. & Nutrition, Health and Athletic Performance. MDPI. 422.

  16. , et al. E. Protein Considerations for Optimising Skeletal Muscle Mass in Healthy Young and Older Adults. Nutrients. 8(4), 181.

  17. , , et al. IProtein Ingestion before Sleep Improves Postexercise Overnight Recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 44(8):1560-9.

     

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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