“…It’s 11:45 PM, I had dinner at 8:30 PM, and right now that I’m going to sleep, I’m so hungry that seems I haven’t eaten anything all day… what can I eat right now before going to sleep? ”
It seems that this scenario is repeated many times in the life of those who seek to improve their body composition, optimise their recovery and performance, lose fat and / or maintain the maximum amount of muscle mass.
And when we find ourselves in a situation in which these conditions occur, it is better to know which food is better to eat at this precise moment, than to simply open the fridge and feast…
Is it necessary to take protein before going to sleep?
A fairly concise question in these circumstances, do you really need to take protein before going to sleep? We will analyse the answer below:
Obviously, I take it for granted that the necessary protein requirements per day are known, with factors such as intensity, volume and frequency of training being taken into account to ensure that we get as close as possible the best recommendation.
With the value that we calculate, which will be the total protein we need per day, the best option is to distribute it in as many meals as is the best way to carry our diet, and that this of course adjusts to our rhythm of life.
Don’t make the mistake of adapting your life to your diet, but vice versa …
On the other hand, an adequate and effective sports routine will be necessary, which has an impact on providing the necessary stimulus.
With this, we can say that to approach our objectives, the following variables will be totally necessary and conditional, where reducing one or the other will imply drastically subtracting the score from the total:
Nowadays, it is the case that the most committed people with themselves, in a matter of having healthy habits – here I am referring to sportspeople mostly -, maintain similar guidelines. Their schedules usually coincide in the long term, except on specific occasions, they will observe the same time to get up, eat their meals, train, do leisure activities, go to sleep (relatively early). With this I intend to show that planning is necessary to facilitate objectives.
I do not know many who stay up late, get up at 12 midday, and eat X today, Y tomorrow, and the Z the day after, and I do not mean that they cycle calories or rely on IIFYM, and not because their work is preventing it. In the latter case, the problem can be solved by adjusting time bands.
Protein before bed is not going to stop you from losing muscle because the monster of catabolism will come to pay you a visit – yes, this may be the main reason many people think about taking protein before bed – fortunately, this is not the case.
What happens to our body while we sleep?
During the processes that take place in this period, the caloric expenditure made by our body is minimal.
As I have mentioned on other occasions, our body is the best machine ever created, but as such, the corresponding maintenance work must be carried out, and sleep is the main one. Rest or rest at night will produce a necessary “Reset” of our system. A hormonal breakdown is carried out by restoring and calibrating functions, repair of muscle tissues, excretion of dead cells … During sleep our brain “recharges”, specifically, a neurotransmitter called adenosine is in charge of signaling to send the brain to rest , since it exerts an inhibitory effect on neuronal activity.
Caffeine blocks the action of adenosine, which is why it enhances our state of alertness as opposed to relaxation
Our night rest is mainly governed by cycles, where there are two types of sleep or phases: REM and NON-REM. Each cycle can last approximately 90 minutes, and they are usually repeated several times during sleep, usually 4-5.
It is during the REM phase that true rest, or complete rest, takes place and the repair mechanisms are carried out. Due to the activation of another neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, during this phase, paralysis of the body occurs, where neurological motor control is inhibited.
During sleep, the growth hormone reaches a peak, and this implies inducing the synthesis of proteins from the elements destined for this purpose – the amino acids – that are found in our body and that are used for this purpose.
When your last meal has been fully digested, and there are no other amino acids left to feed your precious muscles, they end up devouring themselves…
The protein that you eat before going to sleep will provide sustenance and will involve promoting protein synthesis, and when these nutrients are used up, the body will go into a state of “stand-by”. Our body has incredible reserves to maintain its normal working, from liver glycogen and triglycerides.
When we eat a meal, the first hours are known as the post-pandrial period, in which the body digests and absorbs nutrients from the meal. This is where the synthesis of glycogen and proteins takes place … Once it is finished, we go to the post-absorption or post-absorptive period, where our body already resorts to the store to continue supplying nutrients.
The longest post-absorption period would be after dinner and bedtime
During the course of the day, the usual tonic is to feed every 3-6 hours, depending on the usual rhythm, and therefore, the post-prandial and post-absorption periods tend to overlap, leaving a positive nitrogen balance – obviously if we eat correctly with the adequate supply of amino acids.
We therefore see that maintaining a positive nitrogen balance during the sleep phase will be useful if our purpose is to grow and regenerate muscle.
Who can benefit from having protein before going to sleep?
Anyone looking to complete their diet and provide the necessary nutrients to ensure the best recovery and promote the synthesis of muscle mass . Likewise, they will have knowledge of the nutritional requirements, in addition to carrying out an effective training routine, and maintaining an adequate rest rhythm.
People who follow a high-protein diet in order to lower fat %, and need to take several intakes throughout the day, in addition to achieving a higher index of satiety, and also due to the thermal effect having to digest the protein.
Another relevant aspect will be the amount of physical activity that is carried out during the week and that demands greater requirements in terms of amino acids.
With this, sportspeople and athletes, with training doses and competition rhythm, can see their recovery improved. These include endurance athletes, or weightlifters, and even team sports competitors.
What is the best protein to take before going to sleep?
We can contemplate this moment as just before going to sleep – literally – and taking this into account, for most people, their last meal before bed is dinner. However, if depending on your daily schedule and pace of life, between dinner to bedtime, you usually spend more than 2-3 hours awake, incorporating the strategy of taking protein before bed can be quite effective.
How much protein is enough before going to sleep?
Before commenting on which would be the best protein to take before going to sleep, it should be made clear that this food should contain a minimum amount of leucine of approximately 3-4g. This content can be obtained from a complete protein source (such as that of animal origin). This is because leucine is the amino acid that activates protein synthesis (via mTOR). In this way, if we activate an anabolic pathway, we seek to have a certain quantity of amino acids that serve as “building blocks” at that moment.
A “pre-bed” intake of about 40g of protein will be enough
Fast and slow absorption protein
We are sure you’ve heard of these protein characteristics before. It is basically about the amino acid arrangement that each protein forms in our bloodstream. We can best see it as the amount of time the protein will be coming out of these elements.
The fast absorption protein, the most famous being whey – remember that milk contains 20% fast protein, and 80% slow (casein) – produces an amino acid peak in the blood per hour. This means that at that time there will be an amino acidosis, an amount of amino acids that is unusual during the basal stage. This will enhance protein synthesis, which will last for around 2 hours. Then this level goes down.
Comparative graph of peak amino acids in blood: Whey VS Egg White Protein VS Micellar Casein
For its part, the slow-release protein does not suddenly generate the aminos peak, and its presence gradually contributes amino acids for several hours – even 6-8 hours later. From the above we can outline that if we take a protein intake before going to sleep, we seek 2 objectives:
- Produce an amino acid peak that stimulates protein synthesis – minimum supply of 3g of leucine
- Constant supply of amino acids for a long time – maintain a positive nitrogen balance
The best protein for before bed
From my point of view, the best protein to take before bed would be a sequential mix of fast or medium release protein, together with a long-absorbing one.
This can be achieved by mixing:
- 1 scoop of Whey Protein Isolate
- 1 scoop of Micellar Caseine
|Example 1 : 1 scoop of Whey Protein Isolate 92% + 1 scoop of Evocasein|
Despite the fact that the mixture of both proteins could interfere with one another- slowing down the speed of caseine isolation – in the end the protein fractions are digested separately.
Another option is multiphase protein formulas: made up of a mixture of various types of protein that effectively have different rates of absorption and release of amino acids into the bloodstream. With this particularity, we can specify that in this way each time a protein is digested an amino acid peak is produced – as many amino acid peaks as digested proteins will be produced.
|Example 2 : 1.5-2 Evonight dispensers|
- Whey and casein labeled with L-[1-13C]leucine and muscle protein synthesis: effect of resistance exercise and protein ingestion. Reitelseder S1, Agergaard J, Doessing S, Helmark IC, Lund P, Kristensen NB, Frystyk J, Flyvbjerg A, Schjerling P, van Hall G, Kjaer M, Holm L.
- Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. Snijders T1, Res PT1, Smeets JS1, van Vliet S1, van Kranenburg J1, Maase K2, Kies AK3, Verdijk LB1, van Loon LJ4.
- Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Res PT1, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen AP, Senden JM, VAN Loon LJ.
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