The Best Thing to Eat Before Bed
If you fall into the habit of eating dinner, hitting the gym, and then going straight to bed, you may be starving your body of needed protein to build muscles, according to new research from the Netherlands.
“We previously established that muscle protein synthesis rates [i.e. building muscles] are quite low during overnight recovery,” says study author Luc J.C. van Loon, Ph.D., professor of physiology of exercise at Maastricht University Medical Center. “As this might be attributed to the fact that there are not as many amino acids available during the night.”
So researchers questioned whether protein eaten before bed could be effectively digested and provide enough amino acids to stimulate muscle growth while sleeping.
They asked two groups of 8 men to perform leg extensions and presses for 45 minutes starting at 8 p.m. Afterward, one group received an additional protein shake prior to sleep, while the other group received water with some flavoring.
The study found that those who took the protein shake right before sleep increased overnight muscle protein synthesis by more than 22 percent compared to those who drank the flavored water.
Why? Protein stimulates muscle growth, but only for two to three hours after exercise. If you’re an after-work gymgoer, you may not have an extra meal to stimulate muscle production while you’re sleeping. This is why slipping in a protein snack before bed could give your body the opportunity to break it down into amino acids, which stimulate muscle growth, says van Loon.
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your bedtime snack, aim for about 25 grams of a high-quality protein like whey, which studies have shown to exhibit the best muscle-growth rates.
Bonus tip: The study authors noted that this research may be especially beneficial to guys 60 and older. Adding an extra meal right before bed provides more fuel for your body to synthesize muscle and combat the effects of age-related muscle loss. And a new study in the American Journal of Physiology found that elderly men who ate 35 grams of whey protein compared to 10 or 20 grams experienced greater muscle growth.