Protein Shake Before Bed Benefits

Nutritionist Explains 7 Reasons to Consume Bedtime Protein

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: April 11, 2022

A high protein diet has many health benefits, including building lean muscle. And drinking a protein shake before bed is an easy way to ensure you hit your daily protein target.

But a nighttime shake is about more than increasing your protein intake. I’ll show you the seven science-backed benefits of drinking a protein shake before bed.

Plus, I answer several common questions about having a protein shake before bed.

Protein Shake Before Bed

Protein 101

Before we dive into the benefits of a protein shake before bed, let’s talk about why protein matters in the first place.

Protein is like a building block. Your body constantly breaks proteins down throughout the day and puts them back together.

With a high-intensity exercise routine like resistance training, you break down more protein than usual. This breakdown can lead to malnutrition and tissue loss.

Therefore, getting an adequate amount of protein each day is the best way to build a healthy body. And a protein shake before bed can help you do that in several ways.

Is It Okay to Drink a Protein Shake Before Bed?

Yes, drinking a protein shake before bed is generally suitable for active individuals. This nighttime meal is especially beneficial if your goal is building or maintaining lean muscle.

That means you can drink a protein shake before bed whether you’re bulking or cutting. And there are only a few situations where protein before bed could be a bad idea, which I’ll discuss later.

Who Should Have A Protein Shake Before Bed?

Many people could benefit from adding protein to their bedtime routine. It may be good for you if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You exercise regularly with the goal of improving health & fitness

    A protein shake before bed is a good way to ensure you recover from your workouts.

  • It’s hard for you to get enough protein in your diet

    A quick protein shake is an easy way to boost your daily protein intake and hit your targets.

  • You struggle with nighttime food cravings

    Substituting a protein shake for an unhealthy snack is a good way to satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your fitness.

  • It’s hard for you to eat enough calories

    While overeating is a big problem, some people struggle to eat enough. Especially those trying to gain weight. An extra 150 calories at the end of the day can go along way to reaching your calorie target.

  • You work out in the morning or in the middle of the day

    If you work out late in the evening, it’s likely that your post-workout meal and dinner will contain enough protein before you go to bed. But when you work out earlier in the day, your protein synthesis could drop at night. So a bedtime shake ensures your body has the nutrients it needs to recover overnight.

7 Benefits Of A Protein Shake Before Bed

As I mentioned, the goal of having protein before bed is not simply squeezing in one more protein-rich meal. Instead, several physiological factors are at play, such as protein synthesis and hunger hormones.

So let’s go through each of the benefits in more detail.

1. Increase Protein Synthesis

One of the most significant benefits of consuming protein before bed is increasing protein synthesis. Or the process in which cells make proteins.

To illustrate, Maastricht University had subjects work out and eat the same post-workout meal. Then one group had a protein shake before bed while the other did not.

The protein before bed group had 22% higher protein synthesis and less protein breakdown1. As a result, their net protein balance was positive, while the control group was negative.

Protein Shake Before Bed Net Protein Balance

Figure 1. Net protein balance with and without a protein shake before bed. Adapted from Res, Peter T., et al.

2. Improve Recovery From Training

It’s important to realize that you must recover from exercise before benefiting from your workouts. And this is where positive protein balance is critical.

Think of it like building a house. Before you start, you first have to dig a hole. Then you fill the hole with a solid foundation to construct your home.

In the same way, your workouts are like digging a hole. And creating a positive protein balance is like filling it in and creating a foundation to build on. Only then can you get results like building muscle or gaining strength.

3. Build Lean Muscle

Another study by McMaster University sought to measure the effect of protein synthesis on muscle building. Again half of the participants were given a protein shake before bed, and half were not.

In this case, the protein before bed group gained about twice as much muscle as the control group2.

Protein Shake Before Bed Muscle & Strength Gain

Figure 2. Muscle & strength gains with and without a protein shake before bed. Adapted from Snijders, Tim, et al.

4. Increase Strength

In addition to muscle size, participants who consumed protein before bed also gained about 15% more strength than the control group. So again, they were better able to recover from the strenuous workouts.

However, the difference in strength isn’t as pronounced as the change in muscle size, most likely because strength gains are also the result of practicing the lifts and getting more efficient at moving the weight.

5. Reduce Hunger & Cravings

Another less expected benefit of drinking a protein shake before bed is that you’ll feel less hungry when you wake up.

The reason is that protein lowers a hormone called ghrelin for longer than carbs or fat. And, when ghrelin is low, you feel less hungry.

Ghrelin Level By Macronutrient

Figure 3. Ghrelin levels after eating various types of macronutrients.

6. Increase Thermogenesis

Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in our bodies. Often, this heat results from things that stimulate our metabolism and burn calories.

When we eat, our bodies burn calories to break down the food. Another name for this phenomenon is the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), and it can account for 10% or more of the calories you burn in a day.

Since protein is more challenging to break down than carbs or fat, it creates a more significant thermic effect. This extra effort means you burn more calories by simply digesting.

Protein Before Bed Thermic Effect of Food

Figure 4. Calories burned in the hours after eating protein, carbs, or fat.

7. Burn More Fat

Drinking a protein shake before bed won’t necessarily burn fat on its own. But, over time, it will help you adhere to a high protein diet.

An increased protein intake helps you control hunger and burn more calories. As a result, you gain better control of your calorie intake.

And when it comes to burning fat and losing weight, calorie balance is king.

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Protein Shake Before Bed FAQ

Now you know the many benefits of drinking a protein shake before bed. But you may still have questions about the exact the when, what, and how. So here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How Long Before Bed Should I Drink a Protein Shake?

Generally, it’s best to drink your protein shake within about 30 minutes of going to bed. This timeframe ensures you have amino acids available in your bloodstream as long as possible after you go to sleep.

Related Article: 7 Proven Benefits of Nutrient Timing

Protein Before Bed Thermic Effect of Food

What Is the Best Protein to Have Before Bed?

Interestingly, all of the studies on consuming protein before bed use casein protein. And many experts agree that casein is the best option before bed because it’s slower digesting than whey.

Casein Protein Shake Before Bed vs Whey

That means you get a steady release of amino acids without any spike in blood sugar. So you can’t go wrong with casein before bed.

Currently, I use Nutricost Casein Protein before bed. I’m not affiliated with this brand, but I’ve found it’s usually the best quality at the lowest cost.

On the other hand, whey stimulates protein synthesis greater than casein3. And that increase in protein synthesis at night results in muscle and strength gains.

Therefore, it stands to reason that you could also have a whey protein shake before bed and get similar results.

Is It Ever Bad to Drink A Protein Shake Before Bed?

For certain people in specific situations, drinking a protein shake before bed is not beneficial. For example, if you have a sedentary lifestyle, having protein before bed could add unnecessary calories to your diet.

Also, you may be better off skipping the shake if you notice you have trouble sleeping when you eat before bed. Your quality sleep is just as crucial to your overall progress.

Does Having Protein Before Bed Keep You Awake?

Some people might notice that having a protein shake before bed makes it harder to fall asleep. This effect may be most noticeable if you have multiple large meals leading up to bedtime, especially those containing carbs.

However, a low-calorie and low-carb protein shake usually won’t have a noticeable effect on your sleep.

Should I Have a Protein Bar Before Bed?

Protein bars are even faster and more convenient than a protein shake. However, protein bars generally have other ingredients like sugar to make them taste better.

As a result, a protein bar is more likely to raise your blood sugar and promote fat storage at night. So they are not the ideal bedtime snack.

Protein Shake Before Bed Metabolism

Can I Eat a High Protein Meal Before Bed?

You can choose to have a protein-dense meal before bed in place of a shake. This approach is helpful if you run out of protein powder or you want to opt for more natural protein sources.

Before bed, the best foods to eat are slow-digesting protein sources like red meat or cottage cheese. But, again, avoid any simple carbs or sugars before bed.

How Many Grams of Protein Before Bed?

Dietary studies use anywhere from 20-40 grams of protein before bed. But your target depends on your body type, activity level, and fitness goals.

How Much Protein Do You Need Per Day?

At the end of the day (no pun intended 😏), having a protein shake before bed is practical and easy to implement. But in order to reach your fitness goals, you still have to get enough total protein each day.

So how do you know how much protein you need? Well, finding your ideal target can be tricky because it depends on your body size, workout routine, and fitness goals.

That’s why I created a simple Protein Intake Calculator. So you can see exactly how much protein you need to add muscle and burn fat.

With this information, you’re well on your way to optimizing your diet for fat loss and muscle gain. For more tricks and tips, check out my other great content below!

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