Protein Before Bed for Greater Muscle Gains?

protein before bedA recently published study found a protein rich snack before bedtime led to greater gains in muscle mass, strength, and type II muscle fiber size in young men participating in a resistance training program. Yet a closer look at the details of this study suggest the timing (before bed) might not matter at all.

In this study 44 young men were given a supplement containing 27.5 grams of casein and 15 grams of carbohydrate or a placebo that contained no protein, carbs or calories before they went to sleep each night for 12 weeks. They also lifted weights 3 times a week under the direction of a supervised and periodized program. The young men were instructed not to change their diet (other than the supplement). Food logs were taken to access dietary intake. Both groups consumed about 1.3 grams of protein per kg bodyweight before the study started. However, the group given the supplement consumed a total of 1.9 grams per kg bodyweight during the study while the placebo group continued eating the same amount of protein as they did before the study started – 1.3 grams per kg bodyweight. So, was it the timing of protein before bed, the total difference in protein intake or both that led to the results? We don’t know. However, the total protein intake of the placebo group was on the lower end of the recommended range (1.2 – 2.0 though higher values may be beneficial for some, especially those who are cutting calories) anyone should consume if they want to get stronger and bigger.

So what’s the bottom line?

We don’t know if consuming protein right before bed will help young, healthy and active adults make greater gains from their strength training program compared to consuming the same total amount of protein each day without a protein-rich bedtime snack.

My protein recommendation for now:

Meet your daily protein needs based on your goals first and if a pre-bedtime protein-rich snack helps you do this and sleep well at the same time, then great. If eating or drinking before bed interferes with your sleep (running to the bathroom counts as interfering) then this strategy may do more harm than good.

Snijders T, Res PT,Smeets JSJ, van Vliet S, van Kranenburg J, Maase K, Kies AK, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJC. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr 2015.

Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen, AP, Senden JM, Van Loon LJ. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44:1560–1569.

John McCain and the Supplement Police

Today it occurred to me (okay, someone sent an email on one of my listserves) that there are a plethora of food first, anti-supplement people out there.  And, though I agree that a person should eat real food in their diet versus relying solely on dietary supplements (I just ate lunch actually; and took a multivitamin as well as glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate right after), I think the food versus supplement debate doesn’t make sense. It’s like comparing sunscreen with moisturizing lotion. They serve different purposes but both are good for your skin.

Every time I read something by someone slamming the dietary supplement industry, my mind drifts off wondering….Has this person looked at the rates of vitamin D deficiency? Have they worked with an athlete who needs 4,000 calories per day just to maintain weight? Have they ever been in a car in a busy city and relied on a protein bar or RTD instead of taking the time to go get “real food?” Do they take a multi or reach for a probiotic because they are having digestive issues? Do they vary their diet enough to incorporate every single vitamin and mineral we need? I have yet to see a diet like this and as a dietitian I can tell you my diet isn’t perfect. Take copper for instance, the best source is beef  – something I haven’t touched since my freshman year of college (one too many fast food joints during softball season was enough for me). Oysters are the next best source… you can see where I’m going with this.

So what about McCain’s supplement bill? It starts out by saying dietary supplements may “pose safety risks unknown to consumers.” Okay, yes there have been some very non-legit supplement manufacturers out there who have sold stuff that at best is ineffective and at worst is dangerous. But, the last time I checked, the FDA has a running list of number of food recalls for safety issues. If you think that peanut butter scare a few years back (traced to a plant in GA) would scare me off from eating peanut butter forever, you’d be wrong. And, for the anti-supplement people out there, I wonder if they’ve sworn off food?  Did they give up everything with hydrolyzed vegetable protein in it (the latest recall)? What about beef, spinach, peanut butter….and the list goes on and on for those foods that have had safety hazards.

I do think people should eat and drink real food and beverages versus just popping pills all day long. But, I have yet to run into a person that can’t  benefit from some form of a dietary supplement. There are many, many reasons I could site for choosing a supplement. I just hope that freedom of choice isn’t taken away by John McCain and our other senators.