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What protein is best before bed
Whey and casein are the two main proteins found in milk. When consumed separately, whey digests quickly, and it rapidly increases muscle protein synthesis. Casein, on the other hand, is digested at a much slower rate, delivering a constant stream of amino acids to the body. According to recent studies, there are benefits to both whey and casein proteins.

Studies indicate that, compared to casein, whey causes a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis when measured over a few hours. However, when measured over longer periods, the effect is not so clear cut.

For example, in one of the first comparative studies, protein balance over a period of 7 hours was significantly higher with casein compared to whey. One then may think that casein might provide a more anabolic (muscle-sparing) effect at night.

Researchers from the Netherlands had recreationally-active men and women perform a multi-set bout of resistance exercise at 8 pm. After exercise, they consumed 20 grams of whey with 60 grams of carbs. At 11:30 pm, they took another supplement containing either 40 grams of casein or a placebo. Blood measures were made while they were asleep, and measures of muscle protein synthesis were made the next morning. Plasma levels of essential amino acids were elevated throughout the night after casein ingestion but not placebo. Whole body protein synthesis over the night was positive after casein ingestion and negative after placebo. Compared to placebo, muscle protein synthesis during the night was 22% higher when casein was consumed before going to bed.

These results show that consuming casein before bed results in rapid and sustained elevations in blood levels of amino acids, and greater whole body protein balance and muscle protein synthesis.

Reference: Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012, Epub.



Dr. Jeff Volek is a registered dietitian and Full Professor in the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University. He has published 270 articles examining health and performance effects of low-carbohydrate diets and other dietary supplements including seminal work on creatine, carnitine and whey protein.

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