Does eating protein before going to bed help build up muscles?
YES! This is why I recommend it.
If you eat your last meal at, let’s say, 6 PM, your body will have finished processing it by midnight (if not earlier), which leaves it without nutrients for many hours. That sounds like bad news. Well, muscle growth requires two things: a stimulus and raw materials. Training your muscles is a stimulus, of course, but so is eating protein. Both of these things tell your body to build and repair muscle, and you need both to increase your total lean mass over time. Amino acids, which are obtained through eating protein, are the raw materials that muscle tissue is built from. If no amino acids are available for use, your body can’t build any muscle. This is why research has shown that, if protein isn’t eaten before bed, protein synthesis rates are quite low when we sleep.
This, then, leads us to how eating protein before bed helps you build muscle and strength faster. It gives your body amino acids to use for repair while you sleep. This means that instead of having to put protein synthesis “on hold” while you sleep, your body can continue building and repairing muscle tissue. And as most people spend about 1/3 of their day sleeping, you can see why this adds up over time.
So now that we’ve found out why we need protein before going to sleep let’s look at the next point: how much protein you need to maximally stimulate protein synthesis and what kind of protein you should eat before bed?
30 to 40 grams of high-quality protein is enough to maximally stimulate protein synthesis. So personally, when I eat protein, I eat at least 30 to 40 grams.
Many people have whey protein before bed. This is better than nothing but it’s not quite ideal because whey is digested and absorbed fairly rapidly. Specifically, research shows that the human body can absorb 8 to 10 grams of whey protein per hour. This means a large amount would be required before bed to keep plasma amino acid levels high throughout the night. Better choices are (cooked) egg protein or casein protein, which are absorbed at 3 and 6.1 grams per hour respectively.
As you can see, 30 to 40 grams of either egg or casein protein before bed is accomplishes both of our goals: it maximally stimulates protein synthesis rates and keeps amino acids in our blood for the entire night.
For egg protein, you can eat eggs or egg whites or use a powder, and for casein, you can eat a casein-rich food like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, or use a powder.
Hope this was helpful.