Wondering how you can increase muscle gains from hard work in the gym? Have a shake and go to bed. This is what researchers from the Netherlands found after investigating protein consumption and sleep. They found that a 28-gram protein shake before bed substantially increased muscle and strength in comparison to a placebo drink (1).
Sleep is a time most people don’t think of as the window to take advantage of recovery and rebuilding from hard training. In fact, during sleep protein synthesis involved in muscle building is normally very low (1). What research has recently been revealing, however, is that when you consume protein before bedtime protein synthesis can increase during the night (2). This is big news not only for the hard training athlete, but also anyone who exercises and is trying to increase muscle mass for optimal metabolism.
The new study randomized 44 young men to two groups. Both performed a progressive 12-week resistance exercise training program three times per week. One group consumed a protein supplement containing 28 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbohydrate every night before sleep. The other group received a non-caloric placebo. The researchers measured muscle mass and strength parameters before and after the 12-week exercise period.
A Little Protein for a Big Gain
Not surprisingly, muscle strength increased over the 12 weeks in both groups, but more than double in the group that consumed protein before bed in comparison to the placebo. The protein group also gained 75 percent more muscle than the placebo group by measurement of the cross-sectional area of the quadriceps. The authors conservatively concluded, “The present study confirms our observations that provision of dietary protein before sleep is well received and well tolerated by athletes. We conclude that protein ingestion before sleep represents an effective dietary strategy to augment skeletal muscle mass and strength gains during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in healthy, young men.”
The Take Away
What needs to be remembered in light of this study is just because protein is consumed before bed, it doesn’t automatically guarantee increases in muscle mass and strength. There has to be a stressor in place in the form of weight training for the body to properly use the protein. Therefore, for the best results, both should be performed correctly.
As a side note, the amount of protein consumed in this study is a fairly large amount of protein to eat just before going to sleep. For instance this would be like eating a large four-egg omelet or a grilled piece of fish. The best option for high bio-available easily digestible protein with the least amount of volume (and calories) would be to opt for a quality protein-rich shake, such as IsaLean Shake or IsaLean Pro Shake, which will not cause stomach discomfort.
- Snijders T, Res PT, Smeets JS et al. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. The Journal of Nutrition 2015.
- Groen B, Pennings BART, Beelen M et al. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 2012;44:1560-9.