Bodybuilders have long used protein supplementation in their nutritional routines to help their muscles recover after a workout and fuel the muscle growth they are working so hard to achieve.
In recent years, protein shakes have become very popular with active adults in general and some people believe that drinking protein shakes may even help them lose weight. However, if you are going to try supplementation with protein shakes, what’s the best time to drink one? For example, is it good or bad to drink a protein shake before bed time?
There isn’t a clear-cut answer to this question, as not everyone needs to drink a protein shake at all, and many people don’t do well in terms of getting a good night’s sleep if they consume anything too close to bedtime.
However, for some, it may be a good idea, and there is even some newer research to back the idea up. These issues, and more, are what are going to take a closer look at here.
Is It OK To Drink a Protein Shake Right Before Bed Time?
Before we get started, it’s important to note that if you eat a well-balanced diet, you should be able to get the protein your body needs from your food, and won’t need a protein shake at all.
We should also note that some protein shakes have as many calories – and as much sugar – as a standard milkshake – and so could potentially derail any weight loss efforts rather than help me.
However, as we mentioned, there is some research that suggests that very active people, those who work out on a very regular basis and want to try protein supplementation to achieve faster ‘gains’ may indeed benefit from a protein shake before bed. Here’s a look at some of those potential benefits:
Drinking a protein shake before bedtime may help with nighttime Muscular Protein Synthesis, a biochemical process important for muscle growth. Our muscles go through a continual cycle of this and Muscle Protein Breakdown, however resistance exercise speeds up the MPB process. Protein ingestion aids in the maintenance of a high protein equilibrium during this phase, which is necessary for muscle growth.
When you sleep, your chances of encouraging muscle growth decrease, which might lead to MBP. However, having sufficient protein in your body before bed may boost your chances of maintaining and growing muscle while you are sleeping.
Increased lean muscle mass increases your energy level, allowing you to exercise for longer periods of time. According to a 2016 study, drinking 40 grams of protein in the guise of a protein shake or smoothie before bedtime will help the muscle growth and recovery phases needed to build more of that lean muscle.
One of the things people who would not consider themselves serious athletes try drinking protein shakes for is to speed up their weight loss regime. This is a controversial subject in general, and it will depend on just which protein shake they choose.
Consuming a protein shake before bed not only encourages MPS, but it also stimulates your metabolism. Your body will demand extra energy to process and absorb the protein you had before going to bed. Your body will burn calories even while you sleep, resulting in weight loss as you consume more energy.
However, it’s not a magic bullet. While drinking a low calorie, low fat protein shake before bed MAY help some people burn more calories and lose weight faster, experts agree that if you don’t put in the effort while you are awake to expend more calories than you consume, any benefits gained overnight will be negated.
Protein bars are almost always packed with sugar, and many contain the same number of calories as a standard candy bar. They are also often very heavy, and if you eat one right before bed they may cause indigestion. On the whole, it’s fair to say there are much better ways to get an extra protein boost before bedtime than by eating a protein bar.
Many athletes know that a workout right before bedtime is not a good idea in general.
It’s better to undertake light to moderate-intensity activities at night if you’re going to exercise. This degree of activity may assist you in falling asleep faster and sleeping better.
It’s also crucial to finish your workout at least one hour before going to bed. Try to finish at least 90 minutes before going to bed if at all possible. This will allow your body to relax properly.
After that workout a protein shake that is low in calories and sugar may be OK, but they are far from your only choice, and other, sleep friendly protein rich snacks may be better for you instead. These include all the following:
- Low fat, low calorie yogurt
- Lightly scrambled egg
For some people, however, any food too close to bedtime can lead to uncomfortable heartburn and sleeplessness. If you find that this is the case for you, increasing your protein intake during the day – from your food and the occasional protein supplement if you need it – will have much the same effect.
Have more questions about drinking protein shakes before bedtime, protein in general and other related concerns? That’s OK, we have more answers too.
Traditionally, protein supplements are frequently recommended 15–60 minutes after exercise by fitness enthusiasts, the so-called “anabolic window” thought to be the best time to get the most out of nutrients such as protein during this time period. However, more recent research suggests that the ‘window’ may be longer, up to two hours.
If you are trying to boost your weight loss efforts with protein shakes, you’ll benefit from drinking one right after a workout as well, as more calories are burned in that anabolic window too. However, as we mentioned earlier, consuming protein before bed MAY be helpful too, if doing so won’t add too many calories, fat or sugar.
Most bodybuilders advise that if you are using protein supplementation to enhance muscle growth and recovery, you should do so right after you work out, and that includes drinking protein shakes. However, as we just covered, a shake consumed up to two hours after a workout may still offer the same benefits.
That depends on the length of the nap. A power nap of under 30 minutes may be OK, and may even help improve your stamina and focus. Any longer than that, however, and you are likely to be too groggy and lethargic to get the most out of your workout.
This is another often argued about topic in the fitness and weightlifting communities. Some bodybuilders feel that there will be little benefit in doing so in terms of gains, but more feel that protein supplementation should be a constant, and that it should not be skipped.
No, you don’t NEED protein shakes or protein supplements to build muscle at all. Building muscle calls for effort in the gym, even if that is a home gym, discipline and a generally healthy diet. Protein shakes may help those efforts too, but they are not a must.
Alone, it’s highly unlikely simply adding a couple of protein shakes a day to your diet will help you lose weight, and if you choose the wrong ones they could lead to weight gain. However, for some people, when they are factored into their fitness and diet regime properly, they may be helpful in providing a boost to your weight loss efforts.
While there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the ‘ideal’ number of protein shakes to drink in a day, and doing so can be a good thing, it’s also possible to get too much of a good thing.
The chances are that 1-3 shakes a day is sufficient for even serious bodybuilders, and given that they can be very calorific, more than that may wipe out any positives they provide.
You should also remember that you can get great protein from all kinds of healthy foods that will offer other health benefits too, and adding them to your diet, and minimizing the protein shakes, may be a better idea.
It’s also worth noting that consuming an exceptionally high protein diet has health risk factors in the long run. According to studies, even those who are otherwise healthy may have adverse effects such as impaired liver function and an increased risk of heart disease if they ingest too much protein. For reference, according to the FDA the recommended intake is no more than 0.8 g protein per kg of body weight per day.