If you think your post-workout is gluggy; try swallowing the realisation you’ve been consuming your protein all wrong. Or at least—unless you partake in a certain nocturnal ritual—the realisation that your ‘gains game’ has room for nutritional improvement.
Although conventional wisdom says you should drink your protein shakes early in the morning (or immediately following a workout), new research from The School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism (NUTRIM) suggests adding another protein hit just before bedtime could “maximize (your) strength and muscle mass gains during regular resistance exercise training.”
And while protein shakes are one solid option, for those that crave variety: high-protein pancakes, peanut butter cookies and banana protein muffins (to name a few) will—if you put enough protein-high ingredients in them—achieve the same effect.
The relationship between consuming protein and one’s ability to build muscle is well established. This is why so many athletes and gym goers drink protein shakes after working out. However, this study’s point of difference is that it investigated the timing of consuming protein—specifically, just before bedtime—and how it impacts one’s ability to synthesize muscle protein.
Just this week a new paper was published in Frontiers in Nutrition, which involved NUTRIM scientists in Maastricht reviewing data from 44 “healthy young men on a 12-week lifting program” designed to assess the effect of bedtime protein on their gains.
As reported by News Medical Life Sciences (NMLS), “Half of the participants received a pre-sleep protein shake containing about 30g of casein and 15 grams of carbs every night, whilst the others were given an energy-free drink.”
The result? Although the training increased both groups’ muscle mass (as you would expect), “The increase was significantly greater in the group taking bedtime protein and was associated with a greater increase in muscle strength and size,” (NMLS).
To confirm whether these gains were achieved by the timing of the protein ingestion rather than just general additional protein intake, the scientists recommended further studies with larger sample sizes. But the signs for protein-heavy dessert lovers are positive (at last, an excuse to be at the forefront of science).
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Also, according to NMLS, “The available facts do support the importance of the timing of protein intake.” So: good news for nocturnal snackers everywhere.
“Muscle recovery and growth tend to occur during sleep when the muscles are not being used. However, in order for this to occur amino acids are needed and these are not stored by the body,” (NMLS).
Raising the level of circulating amino acids before going to sleep (via protein ingestion) therefore makes more available for overnight muscle repair. So as long as it does not negatively impact your sleep, and as long as it’s not laden with sugar then this could be a handy new habit for you.
While this varies individual to individual, protein intake has not been found to affect sleep quality or increase the amount of fat you store. That said: if you are serious about your training you should consult the holy trinity (a PT, nutritionist and sleep specialist) to get a holistic program in place.
Oh and a final word of warning for those that like to have their cake and skip their workout: this positive effect was found not to be as strong unless the pre-sleep protein intake came after evening exercise.