Most athletes know that every detail counts when it comes to fueling your body to build muscle. How much you eat, how your macros are distributed and the timing of when you eat before and after workouts all affect your metabolism and how your body burns fat and builds muscle.
The amount of advice out there for how much protein to consume before and after a workout is a little overwhelming.
But what if you tend to workout at night? Or, what if you need to squeeze in a protein shake at night to meet your protein intake goals? A lot of athletes wonder if this will interrupt their metabolism and/or the muscle building that occurs while they sleep.
Good news: consuming night time protein will actually likely benefit your fitness goals. However, it’s important to choose the best type of protein to maximize overnight muscle growth and fat building.
Protein before bed promotes muscle growth
The recommended daily protein intake for the average person ranges from 10 to 35 percent of their total calories. Athletes and highly active people with a goal to increase muscle mass can maximize their results by increasing their protein intake to the higher end of this spectrum.
However, it may be difficult for some to consume a large amount of protein on a daily, consistent basis. This brings up the question: will taking protein at night encourage or hinder your fitness goals?
Normally, your body goes into a fasting state while you sleep. But this is also when your body works the hardest to repair muscle and recover from your workouts. The growth hormone facilitates recovery, stimulating muscle growth, and burning fat.
Taking the right amount and best type of night time protein can help your body absorb protein even while you sleep. The protein you consume provides a steady flow of amino acids to the muscles. Those amino acids help to repair muscle fibers and build new muscle.
There are a few studies to support this, with study groups who consumed protein before bed experiencing increased muscle mass and strength compared to placebo groups.
What is the best night time protein for muscle growth?
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has a specific position on this subject, stating that “consuming casein protein (~ 30–40 g) prior to sleep can acutely increase MPS and metabolic rate throughout the night without influencing lipolysis.”
The difference between casein protein and other types of protein like whey is the way it’s digested. Casein is digested much more slowly. So instead of giving your body an instant boost of protein during or immediately after a workout, casein gives your body a slow, steady dose of calories and protein.
ISSN also mentions in their statement that consuming casein just before bedtime does not seem to increase insulin levels or interrupt overnight fat burning, but may increase your morning metabolic rate and reduce hunger.
Casein vs. Whey Protein Before Bed
Like whey protein powder, casein is extracted from dairy. In fact, they’re both byproducts that come from making cheese. Heat and enzymes are used to curdle the milk to make cheese, which also separates the whey and casein. The liquid component is whey, and the solid curds are casein. These can be used in cottage cheese, or dried and turned into protein powder.
However, casein’s amino acid profile is slightly different than whey. Casein provides more of the amino acid glutamine, which plays an important role in muscle building.
Glutamine is considered “conditionally essential” because there are several instances when your body can’t make enough, meaning you need to obtain it through food. These instances include illness, injury, and intense workouts.
Night time casein protein shake for muscle
Instead of sticking to protein powder and water, you can turn your night time protein into a bedtime snack. Here’s a great chocolate banana protein shake recipe to try with casein powder.
- 1 Scoop Naked Casein Protein Powder
- 1 medium banana, sliced and frozen
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 2-3 tbsp milk of choice
- Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
- Add more milk as needed for desired consistency.
- Calories: 251
- Fat: 2g
- Carbohydrates: 33g
- Protein: 26g
Several factors play in maximizing muscle and strength building. Primarily this includes overall nutrition and activity, but timing is also important. Consuming protein just before you go to bed can maximize muscle and strength building overnight. Casein is the best type of night time protein because digestion and absorption are slow and steady. This fuels muscle building while you sleep, without disrupting fat burning.
Whether it’s most convenient for you to workout at night, or it’s easier to meet your protein goals at night with an extra protein shake, casein is the best choice for night time protein.