Extra protein before bedtime can boost muscle building

Two proven ways to boost Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) are to eat protein and to exercise (especially weight training). After reviewing the results of multiple studies, researchers commented that 20g of high-quality protein per meal (with a maximum of 4-5 hours between each meal) is the best way to maximize MPS during the day. More protein may be needed for those with more muscle, those who are older or those who do full body workouts. 

This frequent protein timing pattern has been relatively well documented, and researchers wanted to determine the effect of ingesting protein over longer periods of time because the adaptive response to weight training lasts more than a few hours. If you consume protein every 4 hours during the day but have a big gap at night while you sleep, are you truly maximizing your muscle gains to the fullest extent? That’s what these researchers set out to determine. (Figure A)

The researchers hypothesized that taking protein right before sleep would boost MPS throughout the night. To test this theory, they had recreational athletes drink 20g of protein as a recovery drink immediately after their typical afternoon exercise. This was to prove that protein intake after a late afternoon workout does not diminish the benefits of more protein right before sleep. Next, the athletes were split into two groups and took either 40g of protein (from casein) or placebo right before going to sleep.

As expected, the casein group not only increased MPS 22% higher than placebo, but they also improved whole-body protein balance throughout the night. (Figure B)

They repeated this test in a later study, but with 10g less protein (30g of pre-sleep protein). Surprisingly, the changes were much smaller than what they observed in their previous study. The researchers commented that due to the long period of time (8 hrs) spent sleeping compared to the typical time between meals (4-5 hrs), larger amounts of protein (40g or greater) are required to produce a robust stimulation of MPS during overnight sleep.

Their advice to maximize MPS is as follows. Aim to ingest enough protein at every meal to maximize MPS until your next meal. Just because you eat a large amount of protein at one meal, does not mean you can skip protein the next meal. Each meal is a unique opportunity to stimulate MPS, and these responses may be additive. Take 40g protein before bed if you are doing resistance-type exercise (weight training) and are looking to maximize your muscle building potential by improving the adaptive response to exercise training. 

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