A question that we often hear from parents of youth athletes is... How can my athlete build muscle mass? Pre-bed protein could help!
It is well known that protein intake is essential for increasing strength and building muscle mass. Muscles become damaged after weight training, and it is the ingestion of protein that aids the rebuilding process to form bigger ones, hence, protein is called the ‘building block’ of muscles . It has been proven that weight training and regular protein intake increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis (MPS); a process in which protein is incorporated into muscle to help them grow .
However, given that people typically fast for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, there is a huge window in which MPS is reduced. The research is clear that regular intake of protein helps to optimise muscle mass and get the most out of the hard work in training. This led to the question of whether consuming protein before bed would help to achieve one’s goal of increasing muscle mass and, ultimately, performance.
Many studies have been carried out in recent years to answer this question and the answers now appear to be resounding in favour of eating protein before bed.
One study found that consuming an additional 27.5g of protein before bed (PRO group) led to a greater increase in muscle strength versus the placebo group (PLA group) following a 12-week weight training programme. Participants in the PRO group also found greater improvements in all maximum one repetition lifts performed compared to the PLA group, as well as an increased size .
This has been well backed up by similar studies that have shown that protein is also well digested and absorbed when sleeping which can therefore improve overnight recovery. One study found an increase in mixed MPS rates by 22% and a change in net protein balance from negative in the placebo group to positive in the pre-bed protein group . Also, unlike eating refined carbohydrates, consuming a solid protein snack before sleeping had no negative impact on various measures of metabolism .
What type of protein do I need?
Much of the research carried out on pre-bed protein has used casein as the preferred source of protein as this is said to digest more slowly than whey protein for example . Casein protein is found in dairy products, such as, yogurt, milk and cheese. Although, given that whey protein is often the preferred source due it’s rich supply of BCAA’s it would be interesting to see further research comparing the two.
How much protein do I need?
Check out the Youth Sport Nutrition protein calculator.
Jack Gerrard, Graduate Registrant of the Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register, MSc Sports and Exercise Nutrition, BSc Exercise and Sports Science.
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 Park S, Jang J, Choi MD, et al. The Anabolic Response to Dietary Protein Is Not Limited by the Maximal Stimulation of Protein Synthesis in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Nutrients. 2020;12(11):E3276. Published 2020 Oct 26. doi:10.3390/nu12113276
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