A convenient breakfast drink can double as an excellent pre-sleep drink, too. Protein shakes are best known for building muscles, but they can have extra advantages when consumed at bedtime.
Many find early mornings are the best time for working out, though some may find that their chronotype means they do better with maintaining a regular workout schedule later in the day. It also depends on what one wants to achieve with a workout.
Regardless, drinking a post-workout protein shake during breakfast is common among many health-conscious Americans. Protein compensates for energy expenditure during exercise and helps build muscles. However, several Wiley studies Verified Source Wiley Multinational publishing company specializing in academic and instructional materials. View source show protein-ingestion at bedtime can improve your muscle strength, size, and fiber intake, at least in the healthy young men they studied.
How Much Protein Does The Body Need?
According to the Dietary Guidelines For Americans, your daily calorie consumption should be 10 to 35 percent protein. The average rule of thumb for protein consumption is to have 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 170 pounds, you should have at least 85 grams of protein daily for healthy muscle growth.
However, those who are into intense weight lifting and resistance exercises should consume more protein to make up for the extra muscle tissue breakdown. They should eat at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of their body weight for sufficient muscle gain.
Dietary Protein Intake Chart
|Fitness Level||Protein Needs|
|Average/Sedentary||0.5 grams of body weight|
|Adults in an active fitness regime||0.7 grams of body weight|
Benefits of Drinking a Protein Shake Before Bed
After calculating the amount of daily protein you get from your regular diet, you can compensate for any deficits by drinking protein shakes. Drinking a protein shake before bed can increase muscle mass, improve energy, and accelerate weight loss.
Builds and Preserves Muscles
Drinking a protein shake at bedtime enhances overnight Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS), a biochemical process crucial for building muscle mass. Our muscles constantly go through a cycle of MPS and MPB (Muscle Protein Breakdown), but prolonged resistance training accelerates MPB. Pre-sleep protein ingestion helps maintain a positive protein balance during this cycle, which is required for muscle building.
When you are sleeping, chances of stimulating your muscle growth may decrease, leading to MBP. However, if you have enough protein in your body before you go to bed, it improves your chances of preserving and building muscle at rest.
Amino acids present in protein are the building blocks of muscle mass. There may be a scarcity of essential amino acids in your body when you work out more. If you aren’t balancing it out with a high-protein diet, a protein shake before bed can help.
An increase in lean muscle mass boosts your energy level so you can work out for longer periods. According to a 2016 study, consuming 40 grams of protein in the form of a shake before bed promotes skeletal muscle adaptive response. Your adaptive response indicates endurance for rigorous exercising and resistance training. A protein supplement before you sleep enhances muscle repair and reconditioning, leading to increased strength.
Accelerates Weight Loss
If you are trying to lose weight, drinking a protein shake before bed helps you burn calories even as you sleep. Drinking a protein shake not only promotes MPS, but it also pushes your metabolism into overactivity. Your body needs more energy to absorb and digest the protein you washed down before sleeping. While consuming more energy, your body burns calories even as you sleep, leading to weight loss.
However, in this equation, you have to watch your total intake of calories as well. If you are trying to lose weight, you must account for the calories your protein shake adds to the diet.
For example, if you mix 40 grams of protein powder in a glass of water, you are adding 160 calories (4 calories per gram of protein) to your daily diet. If you mix the protein powder with milk or fruits, it could further add to your calories, leading to unwanted weight gain.
In a weight loss program, you eat in a calorie deficit, consuming fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight. These are called your “maintenance calories,” which are different for different individuals. The number depends on age, height, weight, gender, and level of physical activity.
If your daily intake should be 1500 calories, then be cautious to not exceed your limit by including a protein shake in your diet. You can still capitalize on the benefits of pre-sleep protein ingestion by adjusting calories from your food.
Moreover, consuming protein kills hunger pangs by suppressing your hunger hormone ghrelin and promoting the satiety hormone leptin. If you feel less hungry, you eat less, reducing the chances of weight gain.
In a low-protein weight loss program, muscle tissues break down, leading to sagging skin. Pre-sleep protein drinks can prevent skin from sagging, often seen as a side effect of weight loss.
Does a Protein Shake Before Bed Affect Sleep?
One idea is that drinking a protein shake before bed can potentially promote sleep by pushing the amino-acid tryptophan into your system. Tryptophan enhances the production of the happy hormone serotonin and the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. You can mix your protein powder in milk, yogurt, or soy milk, all rich sources of tryptophan.
In the deep sleep NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) stage, your brain releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH) into the bloodstream. This hormone promotes blood flow to the muscles, improving tissue repair and regeneration.
“Growth hormone shows a peak during nighttime and is further enhanced by sleep, whereas a hormone like cortisol shows a nadir during nighttime and is further suppressed by sleep,” notes Dr. Nayantara Santhi. “It is important to remember that our daily physiological rhythms are the result of an interaction between the circadian clock and sleep.”
However, it is so far inconclusive whether a protein shake can help you sleep better at night. Still, a 2022 study of Australian athletes Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source noted that while a whey protein supplementation did not seem to improve sleep quality or duration, nor did it seem to hamper it. The study also concluded that further research should examine the effect of evening protein intake on sleep duration and quality.
Similiar, a 2021 systematic review Verified Source Oxford Academic Research journal published by Oxford University. View source concluded, “there is no clear relationship between protein intake and sleep. However, the strength of the evidence is rather low. Further RCTs that focus on this specific research question are warranted, considering a more appropriate study design.”
Types of Protein Shakes
There are three types of protein powders: whey, casein, and soy. All of them stimulate muscle growth differently. Whey protein is digested faster, providing instant MPS, making it a good post work-out drink.
Soy and casein are digested more slowly, prolonging MPS through the night. Casein protein is the slowest, making it the best for overnight recovery.
Don’t be alarmed if it takes a little experimentation to find the best protein shake for your needs. For example, if you find a heavier shake makes it difficult to relax and unwind during your bedtime routine, you may want to switch to a lighter blend.
You may even want to try a protein shake earlier in the day before you start to rely on it as a bedtime supplement. For example, some people may have issues with digesting whey protein shakes due to lactose intolerance. If you are one of those people and you drink a whey protein shake close to bedtime, you may find yourself up late into the night from stomach cramps and bloating.
More About Eating and Drinking Before Bed
If a protein shake just doesn’t sound appealing as the evening gets later, there are other late-night snacks to try and more eating considerations:
- How Caffeine Works, and What it Means for Sleep
- Drinking Apple Juice Before Bed
- Best Teas for Sleep
- How A Banana Before Bed Can Help You Sleep Better
- Superfoods That Can Help You Achieve More Restful Sleep
- Nutrition Experts Share Their Favorite Bedtime Snacks
- Easy to Prepare Sleep-Inducing Dinners
- Drinking Water Before Bed and How it Affects Sleep
- Diabetes and Sleep: How High Blood Sugar Steals Sleep Time
When it comes to eating before bed, it’s best to have dinner at least 3 hours before your bedtime. Having dinner too close to bedtime means you may experience acid reflux or ingestion when you lie down. Give yourself time to let your stomach digest its contents and push them into your small intestine.
If you’re saving your protein shake for bedtime, make sure you’re loading up on other protein sources earlier in the day. A high-protein breakfast can be one of the best ways to wake up in the morning.
Are there any negative impacts of drinking a protein shake before bed?
Not if you choose one low in sugar. Sugar instantly increases your energy levels, disrupting sleep. Before buying your protein powder, check the sugar content in it. If you are weight-watching, take into account the added calories from your protein shake. Don’t exceed your daily limit.
Now, some sleepers may find protein shakes cause stomach discomfort. If you eat before bed, this can cause feelings of bloating or constipation that make it difficult to fall asleep. Oftentimes this is due to some of the ingredients in ready-made protein shakes. If you’re considering a protein shake before bed, you may want to sample it during the day to make sure it agrees with your stomach.
What food can improve muscle growth during sleep?
High protein sources such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and nuts improve muscle growth. Poultry, seafood, tofu, legumes, and lentils are also rich in protein. You can have any of these for dinner, or as a late-night snack before bed. Having one of these high-protein foods can also help you wake up in the morning.
How many glasses of protein shakes can you have in a day?
The answer to this depends on your body weight and level of physical activity. On average you need 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you work out regularly, you need about 0.7 to 0.8 grams per pound of weight.
Most of this protein need is met by eating protein-rich food. But if you feel you aren’t getting enough protein, you can compensate for your normal diet with protein shakes. In your pre-sleep drink, mix 40 grams of protein for optimal benefits.
You could drink one or two glasses of protein shakes in a day, depending on your deficit. Athletes who lead intensive and physically demanding lives may benefit from as many as three protein shakes in a day, but for the average person, this is usually excessive.
Can you have a protein shake before bed only if you work out regularly?
No. Anyone can have a protein shake before bed because it has many advantages. Shakes are a convenient option to ensure you’re incorporating enough protein into your diet. Everyone needs a certain amount of protein in their body for muscle growth. The pre-sleep protein shake gives you the added advantage of muscle growth during sleep. It also may help in weight loss.
Should I drink protein shakes every day?
You should be able to drink protein shakes every day if you wish, but it’s important to make sure they aren’t your sole source of protein. Treating protein shakes as a substitute for traditional sources like meat, eggs, legumes, and nuts can deprive you of vital nutrients. A shake is a form of protein supplementation and shouldn’t be a replacement for a healthy and varied diet.
It’s also important to make sure you aren’t overloading on protein and calories by consuming shakes every day, as this can lead to unexpected and unwanted weight gain. There are high-calorie and low-calorie options when it comes to protein shakes, so it’s important to choose one that works with your diet.
Is it possible to have too much protein?
Yes, it is possible to over-indulge when consuming high protein foods, though how much protein we should be consuming in a day is still a subject of debate, according to Harvard Health. Verified Source Harvard Health Blog run by Harvard Medical School offering in-depth guides to better health and articles on medical breakthroughs. View source Long-term effects of consuming too much protein include a higher risk of kidney stones, along with greater stress on your kidneys and liver. And if you eat a lot of red meat with saturated fat, you may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer than people who eat more plant-based protein.
If you happen to eat too much protein one day, you may feel exhausted, irritable, or experience ingestion, nausea, or diarrhea. It’s also best to spread your protein consumption throughout the day, to reduce how much your body has to process at once.
Protein has many benefits and having a certain amount of it before sleep optimizes its advantages. Slow-digesting protein in a bedtime shake prolongs the duration of muscle protein synthesis, building muscles as you sleep. A protein shake at bedtime can preemptively fuel you for the day ahead.
About the author
Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.View all posts