Pre-Bed Protein is Good for Gains
For decades, bodybuilders have consumed some form of protein prior to going to bed, typically in the form of either cottage cheese or a casein protein shake. The bioscience reasoning behind this practice essentially boils down to the idea that having protein pre-sleep prevents your body from going catabolic.
This is due to the fact that casein protein (the primary type of protein in cottage cheese) is incredibly slow-digesting, with some research showing it provides a steady supply of amino acids to the body for up to 7 hours. 
Until now, most of the casual gym population and even those in the evidence-based community have promoted the idea that the pre-bed protein practice isn’t really necessary and/or it doesn’t offer much additional benefit in terms of enhancing lean mass gains.
A new review, however, suggests otherwise.
Published in Frontiers in Nutrition, the review provides an update regarding the latest research conducted on measuring the effects of pre-bed protein intake on muscle protein synthesis rates and the subsequent effects on lean mass in resistance-training individuals. 
Also included in the review are discussions related to the digestion and absorption of pre-bed protein (Spoiler alert: consuming protein right before bed doesn’t automatically get stored as fat) as well as its effects on sleep quality and latency.
Based on the current body of evidence, the authors found that not only does pre-bed protein not get stored as fat, it actually increases fat metabolism. And, in regards to sleep, consuming a serving of pre-sleep protein does not appear to adversely impact an individual’s quality of sleep or the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep onset latency). 
Regarding muscle protein synthesis the authors found that the addition of a pre-bed protein feeding following a bout of resistance-training further amplified the increase in muscle protein synthesis induced by exercise, and consuming some form of pre-bed protein positively benefits protein intake distribution during the day.
Unfortunately, the jury is still out regarding whether or not pre-bed protein enhances lean mass gains or recovery significantly more than consuming sufficient amounts of protein during the rest of the day.
In the conclusion, the authors note:
“However, whether this beneficial effect on pre-sleep protein ingestion on muscle mass and strength gain during resistance-type exercise training are due to an increased total protein intake rather than by its specific timing remains elusive, and warrants further research.” 
Basically, researchers aren’t 100% certain if the increases in muscle protein synthesis and fat-free mass are due to the increased protein intake that accompanies the pre-bed protein feeding or if its the precise timing that is more responsible.
Either way, consuming enough protein daily is paramount to optimal muscle growth and recovery. If having a shake or protein snack before bed helps you hit your daily targets or helps you avoid raiding the fridge at night due to midnight hunger pangs, feel free to have it, but if you’re not hungry or have already met your protein and calorie needs for the day, there’s no inherent rush to have one.
What do you think?
Do you subscribe to the pre-bed casein shake or not?
Leave your thoughts below.
1) Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson MP, Maubois JL, Beaufrère B. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997;94(26):14930-5.
2) Snijders, T., Trommelen, J., Kouw, I. W. K., Holwerda, A. M., Verdijk, L. B., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2019). The Impact of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion on the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise in Humans: An Update . Frontiers in Nutrition . Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnut.2019.00017