Most athletes know that consuming a protein shake between 30 and 60 minutes after a workout can boost their performance in the weight room and on the field. Protein shakes help repair and rebuild muscles that break down during physical activity. But did you know that consuming a protein shake before bedtime can also help you build muscle and get stronger?
A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that athletes who consumed a protein shake before they went to sleep were able to increase their muscle mass and strength more significantly than those who didn't.
Dutch researchers assigned a progressive 12-week resistance-exercise training program to 44 men between the ages of 21 and 23. One group consumed a supplement containing 27.5 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbohydrate and 0.1 grams of fat every night before bedtime. The other group received a noncaloric placebo supplement. Muscle hypertrophy was assessed on a whole-body, limb and muscle-fiber level before and after exercise training. Strength was assessed regularly by one-repetition maximum strength testing in multiple exercises, including Leg Press, Leg Extension, Chest Press, Shoulder Press and Vertical Pull-Down.
The results showed a significant increase in muscular strength, size and cross-sectional area. However, the group that consumed the protein supplement had a significantly greater increase in muscle strength than the group that consumed the placebo. In addition, the quadriceps muscle cross-sectional area increased in both groups, but the increase was greater in the group that consumed the protein supplement. Both Type I and Type II muscle fibers increased in size after exercise training in both groups, but the protein-consuming group experienced a greater increase in Type II muscle fiber size.
So should you start consuming a protein shake before you go to sleep? Based on this study, the answer is yes. According to the research, protein consumption before bed is an effective dietary strategy to increase muscle mass and strength gains during resistance-exercise training in young men.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you, depending on your dietary needs, age, size, sport and stage of training (off-season, pre-season, in-season, post-season). Researchers still advocate an overall well-balanced diet throughout the day, primarily from whole foods, but a protein supplement post-workout and before bedtime is an excellent one-two punch strategy to help increase strength and performance.
If you're not a fan of protein shakes, here are some alternatives :
- Greek yogurt with nuts
- Bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit
- Cottage cheese
- Apple or banana with 1-2 tbsp of peanut butter
- Turkey slices or canned tuna
Snijders, Tim. (2015). "Protein Ingestion Before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains During Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men." Journal of Nutrition, pp. 1178-1183. http://asn-cdn-remembers.s3.amazonaws.com/8882bb3cd5c9b6d62b14ceef26acad16.pdf.