It’s a tactic everyone’s been talking about for years, but we’ve never been sure it works. Now we do. Here’s how to build muscle in bed.
We all know that drinking a protein shake before bed is a good strategy for building muscle, but it’s still satisfying to read a scientific paper that says we’re not only right, we’re actually right.
I was especially satisfied when the paper was a large review that looked at 45 papers on the topic and managed to draw some conclusions about how best to utilize a nighttime protein drink strategy.
The review’s lead author, Tim Snijders, is no stranger to research on resistance training and bedtime protein intake. In 2015, he found that weightlifters who drank 28 grams of protein (14 grams of casein and 14 grams of casein hydrolyzate) before bed gained about 4 pounds more muscle over 12 weeks than a control group.
That’s pretty impressive, and when he recently looked at a plethora of papers on the topic, most agreed that drinking protein before bed significantly increases muscle protein synthesis (MPS) without causing fat gain.
“All the protein consumed before bed is used for protein synthesis. When exercising earlier in the evening, most of the protein consumed goes directly to muscle protein synthesis rather than being stored.”
However, some of the studies he’s looked at really don’t show much or even any extra muscle protein synthesis overnight. But the researchers involved in these studies may have used insufficient amounts of the protein, biological value of decay (BV), or a resistance program that is more suitable for sarcopenic poodles than bodybuilders or strength athletes.
Is there anything special about consuming protein before bed? Or is it just a matter of increasing your overall protein intake?
Here are Snyders’ thoughts:
“Despite the relatively high amount of protein consumed earlier in the day, protein intake before bed may still produce an anabolic stimulation of nocturnal muscle protein synthesis rates, thereby enhancing daily muscle tissue reconditioning.”
Another possible issue comes from the timing of resistance training. In some studies, they found a positive correlation between bedtime protein and extra muscle protein synthesis, and resistance training was performed between 8:00 and 10:00 pm.
That’s promising for lifters who hit the gym in the evening, but what about lifters who work out in the morning or late afternoon? While the answer is unclear, my guess is that late afternoon trainers are still in the anabolic “window” before bed and would still benefit from drinking some extra protein before bed.
In general, morning trainers will also benefit from late night protein, but whether they will enjoy the same significant increase in muscle protein synthesis is unknown (they may just benefit from increased total protein intake, not time Sensitive MPS increase) ).
If you train in the morning, you can try some experiments. Save some or all of your arm workouts for evening TV watching.Get out a pair of dumbbells and do a few sets 10-6-10 training. Then, drink your bedtime protein and watch what (if anything) happens to your arms over the course of a few weeks.
Have a good-quality smoothie with casein protein before bed. Most studies have used casein, probably because it is a slower-digesting protein, so it’s unclear how other proteins would perform in similar situations. Metabolic Drive® Proteinwhich uses the superior micellar caseinis the ideal choice.
when? 10 to 30 minutes before bedtime. How many? Up to 60g, but the average sweet spot seems to be around 30g.
Snyders T et al. Bedtime protein intake increases muscle mass and strength gains during long-term resistance-exercise training in healthy young men. J Nutrition. 2015 Jun;145(6):1178-84. PubMed.
Snyders T et al. The effect of bedtime protein intake on the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to exercise in humans: an update. front nut. March 6, 2019;6:17. PubMed.