Whey protein is the go-to choice for those trying to supplement their healthy diet, lose weight, build muscle, and get fit. Not only is it easy on the digestive system, but it’s a quick-acting form of protein that will promote muscle repair and recovery.
When is the best time to drink a protein shake? You probably already know whey protein is great after a workout, but is drinking whey protein before bed also helpful?
Why Take Whey Protein Before Bed
There are many reasons to consider snacking on whey protein powder, here are a few benefits of drinking whey protein before bed:
- Burn Fat – Whey protein can play a role in speeding up the metabolism as well as alter hormones related to satiety. This means that a high protein diet may help with weight loss. A 2007 study evaluated the use of a whey protein supplement on weight loss. One hundred and fifty eight subjects followed a calorie-restricted diet for 12 weeks. They received either a whey protein supplement or a placebo with similar calorie content 20 minutes before breakfast and 20 minutes before dinner. Weight, lean body mass, body fat, and bloodwork was monitored to evaluate the impact of the supplement on the participants. The weight loss between the two groups was approximately the same, but the group that received the whey protein lost significantly more body fat and less lean muscle when compared to the placebo group. This result suggests that whey protein can help your body burn fat more effectively while maintaining muscle mass, therefore making it easier to keep weight off in the long-run.
- Speeds Recovery — Did you know that MOST of your recovery takes place as you sleep? During the day, you are using your muscles, so your body can’t really make proper repairs until you finally stop moving (at night). Drinking whey protein at night provides your body with the raw materials it needs to make those repairs more efficiently, leading to enhanced recovery.
One 2012 study examined how protein intake before sleep can improve post-exercise recovery. Researchers found that protein consumed immediately before sleep can help stimulate protein synthesis after exercising and improve whole-body protein balance to aid in recovery overnight.
- Supports a Healthy Metabolism— Not only can you drink whey protein before bed, but did you know that taking protein at night may speed up your metabolism all the way to the next day? This means you are burning fat and calories all night at a faster rate. In a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, 11 men consumed a supplement containing whey protein, casein protein, carbohydrates, or a placebo before bed. The next day, the metabolism of the men who had either protein was significantly higher than those who had the carbohydrate or the placebo. This study suggests that protein before bed may help you burn more calories throughout the night. Who doesn’t want to be burning calories while they are sleeping?
- Maintain Muscle Mass — If you give your body the proper amount of amino acids, you ensure that it receives all of the protein needed to build new muscle and repair existing muscle. A diet inadequate in protein will cause your body to use protein for energy, instead of using it for muscle building. Eating enough protein will encourage the maintenance or even growth of muscle mass.
- Helps Control Blood Sugar- Uncontrolled blood sugars can lead to insomnia and cause you to wake up feeling tired and hungry in the morning. Drinking whey protein before bed can help regulate blood sugar during the night. A 2014 study of people with type 2 diabetes gave subjects 50 grams of whey or a placebo before a meal. For those that received the whey protein, their blood sugar was 28% lower. The insulin response in those that received the whey was increased, which is why the blood sugars were lower. This study may suggest that ingesting whey protein powder before bed may help lower or stabilize blood sugars.
- Improves Athletic Performance- beyond initiating muscle repair and speeding up recovery, drinking whey protein before bed may help regulate muscle metabolism while supporting strength and muscle gains. One 2015 study analyzed the impact of protein supplementation before sleep on muscle mass and strength gains during resistance-type exercise training.
The study consisted of 44 young men who were assigned to a 12-week resistance exercise training program. One group consumed a protein supplement containing 27.5 g of protein, 15 g of carbohydrate, and 0.1 g of fat every night before sleep, while the other group received a placebo.
Researchers found that muscle strength and muscle mass increased after resistance exercise training to a significantly greater extent in the protein-supplemented group than in the placebo group.
A more recent 2019 study of 10 professional soccer players found that compared to the placebo group, 40 grams of protein before bed enhanced physical performance and decreased muscle soreness among the players.
A Few Tips for Whey Protein Shakes Before Bed for Weight Loss
If your goal is to lose weight, drinking whey protein at night may be a good option. As you saw above, it can help to speed up your metabolism, maintain muscle mass, and make it possible to burn more fat and lose weight.
But, you do need to account for the additional calories if you are going to be drinking whey protein before bed. Additional calories, even from whey protein, will cause weight gain. One way to do this is to mix it with water instead of milk. While the taste isn’t as rich with water, the health benefits remain! You still get all of the amino acids in the protein, but with half of the calories.
A single cup of milk has around 120 calories, and a scoop of protein powder has between 115 and 150 calories. By mixing the protein with water, you get plenty of protein with 50% of the caloric intake.
Also, eliminate all of the “additives” you might include in a protein shake, such as fruit, as this will just add extra calories. If you account for the additional calories from the shake, it should help boost your results.
Drawbacks of Having a Whey Protein Shake Before Bed
Taking a whey protein shake before bed is a great idea, but it may not be right for everyone. Let’s take a look at a few situations where this may be the case.
Knowing how certain pre-bed regiments including your snacking habits like whey protein at night may impact your health and sleeping patterns, therefore it is important to be conscious of how those routines can impact your body. Whey protein is designed to give you a quick infusion of amino acids and some calories. This means that it’s highly useful to have before, during, and immediately after your exercise.
- Before your workout it helps to produce ATP energy to use during training
- Mid-workout it helps to keep your energy levels high and your muscles workout
- After your workout it helps to replenish lost nutrients and speed up recovery
But the fact that whey protein is fast-acting means that it’s NOT the best option for you to take right before bed. Why is this? It may not provide you with the long-term feeling of satiety you are looking for at night, since it is used up so quickly for energy and muscle repair.
But, there is a better option for protein before bed — casein. With casein, you get a very slow-burning form of energy that your body is able to digest and absorb over the course of the evening. It takes hours to break down the protein, so it’s a slow trickle of energy.
The slow burn of casein is great for blood sugar and for satiety. There’s far less chance of you waking up at night due to hunger when you consume casein. Casein can give your body the amino acids it needs for muscle repair without the downside of waking up in the middle of the night feeling hungry.
Whey Isn’t as Effective as Casein
The bottom line is, even though whey has its benefits, it isn’t as effective as casein for overnight energy stabilization and long-term satiety. This is due to the fact that the whey protein is digested and processed so much more quickly.
Within the first couple of hours of sleep, whey will be distributed to all of the muscles and organs in your body. With casein, it would take much longer to digest and distribute the amino acids. Though the repairs will be made more slowly, the steady stream of amino acids will give you more energy in the morning.
Comparing the effects of casein and whey protein on your body is like the difference between a bowl of oatmeal and a candy bar. The breakdown of casein can be compared metaphorically to oatmeal in that it releases energy slowly over the course of hours. On the other hand whey protein can be compared to something more like a candy bar, giving you a quick burst of amino acids all at once which may not be ideal if you are in need of a consistent stream of energy.
A 2009 study compared the speed of digestion of whey, casein, and soy proteins. Researchers found that whey resulted in a faster and more significant amino acid increase, when compared to the other two proteins. This translated to more immediate muscle synthesis. The digestion of the casein was overall slower as well.
According to The International Society of Sports Nutrition, drinking approximately 30 to 40 grams of protein from casein before bed can help increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and metabolic rate throughout the night.
The group recommends having a protein shake at night for athletes who train in the early morning without eating, or in the evening after dinner.
Is Whey Protein Before Bed a Good Idea, or Are You Choosing the Wrong Protein?
The truth is that casein is probably a better protein choice for your pre-bedtime smoothie or protein shake. It’s designed to give you a steady stream of amino acids, enabling your body to make repairs more efficiently over the course of the evening.
Whey protein powder will run out of steam within a few hours, so it’s better to go with a casein based protein powder as the optimum pre-bedtime protein drink.
If you don’t fall under the category of an early morning athlete and are interested in the general benefits of adding some extra protein to your daily routine, look no further than Well Wisdom’s Vital Whey. Not only is it 100% natural, but it’s fast-acting, easy on your digestive system, and absolutely delicious when mixed into a pre-bedtime whey protein shake.
Is it good to drink a protein shake right before bed?
Drinking a protein shake before bed may help boost your metabolism, allow your body to burn fat more effectively, help you maintain muscle mass, supports stable blood sugars throughout the night, speed up recovery time, and may help improve athletic performance.
However, if you’re looking to lose weight, you may try mixing your protein powder with water rather than milk to cut back on unwanted calories. Additionally, you may consider using casein protein before bed as it is digested and processed more slowly than whey, enabling your body to make repairs more efficiently throughout the night.
Is it OK to drink whey protein before bed?
While drinking whey protein before bed may hold some advantages, it may not be the best pre-bedtime protein drink.
Whey protein is digested and processed much more quickly than casein protein. Therefore, drinking whey protein before bed will give you a quick shot of amino acids and then run out of steam. On the other hand, casein protein is slowly released over the course of many hours allowing your body to promote overnight energy stabilization and long-term satiety.
Will whey protein before bed cause you to gain weight?
Having whey protein at night doesn’t necessarily cause you to gain weight, but if you’re mixing it with ingredients that add unnecessary calories to your routine, this can lead you to exceed your individualized calorie needs which at that point could result in unwanted weight gain.
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