Following on from my Blog last week, Snacking – Should I Shouldn’t I? I was asked the question at Bootcamp this week, should I have a protein snack before bed?
The short answer is yes. If you want to optimise building muscle and strength as quickly as possible, you should eat protein before bed but….
You need to have the fundamentals in place or it will make no difference whether you snack or not, or whether you snack on protein or carbs. The fundamentals being:
Properly calculating and counting your calories…
Including weights in your training…
Following a sensibly designed workout programme…
And ensuring you are getting enough sleep…
If you don’t have these, when you eat protein simply won’t matter. And nor will many other things, like what types of supplements you take, how many carbs you eat, how “clean” your diet is, and much more.
Once you have the fundamentals though and you’re looking for ways to get more out of your training, then it makes sense to start thinking about optimising and the below will help. It’s a little bit ‘techi’, but I hope I have made it as easy as possible to understand.
Does Protein Before Bed Prevent Muscle Loss?
If you eat your last meal at, let’s say at 6pm, your body will have finished processing it by midnight (if not earlier), which leaves it without nutrients for many hours. Muscle growth requires two things: a stimulus and the raw materials.
Training your muscles is a stimulus, of course, but so is eating protein. Both of these things tell your body to build and repair muscle, and you need both to increase your total lean mass over time.
Amino acids, which are obtained through eating protein, are the raw materials that muscle tissue is built from. If no amino acids are available for use, your body can’t build any muscle. This is why research has shown that, if protein isn’t eaten before bed, protein synthesis rates are quite low when we sleep.
This, then, leads us to how eating protein before bed helps you build muscle and strength faster: It gives your body amino acids to use for repair while you sleep. This means that instead of having to put protein synthesis “on hold” while you sleep, your body can continue building and repairing muscle tissue. And as most people spend about 1/3 of their day sleeping, you can see why this adds up over time.
Is Eating Protein Before Bed Good for Weight Loss?
Yes would be slightly misleading but… What will help you lose fat faster, though, is a high-protein diet, and one of the reasons relates to this “energy cost” of food. Now, when you allot a large percentage of your daily calories to protein, you burn more of those calories while at rest. And this is one of the reasons why a high-protein diet is great for losing weight. If someone is eating a low-protein diet, a serving of protein before bed isn’t going to help them lose weight faster.
This is why it’s misleading to say that protein before bed helps you lose weight faster. A more accurate statement would be that protein before bed can help if you follow a high-protein diet, which can help you lose weight faster.
What Kind of Protein Should You Eat Before Bed?
Many people have whey protein before bed. This is better than nothing but it’s not quite ideal because whey is digested and absorbed fairly rapidly.
Best choices are (cooked) egg protein or casein protein, which are absorbed much slower. For egg protein, you can eat eggs or egg whites, and for casein, you can eat a casein-rich food like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.
The Bottom Line on Protein Before Bed… You don’t have to eat protein before bed to make good progress in building muscle and strength, but research clearly shows that it helps. So include slow-burning protein like egg into your daily meal plans.
But more importantly, back to the beginning, ensure you have the fundamentals in place to start with.
Have a great day 🙂