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Need a late-night snack? Support your workout routine with a protein shake before going to bed

The next time you feel like having a late-night snack, why not try a protein shake? Drinking a protein shake before bed can help increase muscle mass and strength in response to resistance exercise, according to a review published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

The review, which was conducted by researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, suggested that sleep is a unique nutritional window for increasing muscle gains, whereas late-night protein calories promote muscle gain without increasing body fat.

Muscles can only grow and repair themselves when amino acids from protein are present in the blood. However, unlike glucose, the body does not store and release amino acids, so they must be obtained from food.

Previous studies reported that consuming protein before sleep increases muscle protein synthesis during overnight sleep in young adults. These studies have fueled the idea that a pre-sleep protein supplement taken over a long period can maximize the strength and muscle mass gains during regular strength training.

In one of the studies reviewed, 44 fit men were asked to participate in a 12-week lifting program. Half of the participants took a protein shake containing 30 g of casein and 15 g of carbs before bed; the other half received an energy-free drink. By the end of the trial, both groups gained muscle, but the protein shake group gained significantly more strength and size.

Evidence also revealed that late-night consumption of protein did not lead to weight gain. One study examined and compared the effects of an eight-week morning casein consumption with evening casein consumption. Results showed that the additional protein-calorie intake in the evening did not cause any increase in fat mass regardless of the amount of exercise.

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In another study, the consumption of protein shake before bed even increased the rate of fat burning the next day. This might be because consuming casein decreases the insulin response after meals, which encourages the body to use more fat.

In addition, the researchers found that drinking a protein shake before sleep would not keep you up. Evidence showed that protein intake before bed had no effect on sleep quantity and quality.

Making your own protein shake

Protein powders, including casein, blend well in smoothies. When making a protein drink, make sure to choose protein powder based on your goals and preferred diet type. To make a simple protein shake, add your chosen protein powder to a blender bottle with filtered water and shake well. (Related: Customize your own protein shakes to fit your particular health needs.)

Avoid protein shakes with added sugar, especially before you sleep. Sugar intake can result in weight gain and increase your energy levels, which can make it hard for you to fall asleep.

Consume just enough protein. Adding too much protein powder to your drink can lead to bone loss, liver problems, and kidney damage. When buying protein powders, choose the best quality and buy organic protein powders from trusted retailers with minimal fillers and ingredients.

Keep in mind that protein powder should not be used as a replacement for the protein in whole foods. It is still important to eat protein-rich foods like eggs, fish, legumes, and meat as they not only contain protein, but also other important minerals and vitamins that the body needs to function well.

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