7 Amazing Benefits Of Drinking A Protein Shake Before Bed

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 does more than just increase your protein intake. In this article, I’ll share 7 health benefits of drinking a protein shake before bed.

Protein Shake Before Bed

Why Protein Matters

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

Protein is like a building block for your body. Throughout the day your body constantly breaks proteins down and puts them back together.

With a high-intensity exercise routine like resistance training, you end up breaking down more protein than normal. This can lead to malnutrition and tissue breakdown.

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.

7 Benefits Of A Protein Shake Before Bed

1. Increase Protein Synthesis

One of the biggest benefits of consuming protein before bed is that it increases 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.

On average, 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 you benefit from your workouts. And this is where positive protein balance is key.

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 upon which 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. As with the first study, 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. Again, they were better able to recover from the strenuous workouts.

Although 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 is the result of things that stimulate our metabolism and burn calories.

When we eat, our bodies burn calories to break down the food. This is called 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 harder to break down than carbs or fat, it creates a larger thermic effect. Which means you burn more calories by doing nothing more than digesting.

Protein Before Bed Thermic Effect of Food

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

6. 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.

What To Include (& Avoid) In A Protein Shake Before Bed

Now that you know the benefits of protein before bed, how exactly do you add this bedtime snack to your daily routine? To answer that, let’s talk about what the protein shake should consist of.

Include Casein or Whey Protein Powder

Interestingly, all of the studies I read while researching this article used casein protein. Presumably, because it’s known to be slower digesting than 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.

I personally use Gold Standard Casein from Optimum Nutrition.

On the other hand, whey stimulates protein synthesis to a greater extent than casein3. And that increase in protein synthesis at night is what 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.

How Much Protein?

Studies used anywhere from 20-40 grams of protein. But your personal target depends on your body type, activity level, and fitness goals.

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Avoid Carbs, Sugar, And Sodium

When concocting your evening protein shake it’s essential to avoid carbs, especially sugar. The reason is that carbs raise your blood sugar which can cause you to store fat. A good protein powder will have less than 3 grams of total carbs and only 1 or 2 grams of sugar.

In addition, check the label of your protein powder to make sure it doesn’t contain an excessive amount of sodium. Too much sodium causes water retention, so shoot for less than 200 mg per serving.

Who Should Have A Protein Shake Before Bed?

If you have a sedentary lifestyle, then added protein probably isn’t for you. In fact, it could add unnecessary calories to your diet.

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

That said, there are many people who 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.

Conclusion

At the end of the day (no pun intended 😏), having a protein shake before bed isn’t a one size fits all solution. But it is practical and easy to implement if you’re looking for an added edge in reaching your fitness goals.

For that reason, I recommend giving it a try. And if you want more helpful nutrition tips and tactics, check out some of my other useful articles below.

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