Best protein before bed

What is the best protein before bed, why you should take it before sleep, what makes it the best, and how much should you consume will all be covered in today’s blog post.

I’ll start with a quick disclaimer though, as always it is important to remember that although the advice given within this blog is based on the latest research, it is impossible for anyone to give advice that is suitable for all populations; not knowing of your particular situation and how different sources of proteins will affect you and how you will respond to them. You must forever be iterating on your own diet and nutrition, treating yourself as your own test patient to find what is best for you.

Boring bit out of the way, lets get into it.

Is pre-sleep consumption bad?

We should start with the potential elephant in the room. The media and ‘online gurus’ have suggested over the years that eating anything prior to sleep is a bad idea, citing that calories that are consumed late in the day are not needed, due to us ceasing activity before slipping on our jammies and going to bed, and that in turn these calories will negatively affect body composition, i.e make you fat

While it is certainly not a good idea to consume large quantities of food, in part due to digestive issues, the bigger picture is to look at overall calorie consumption throughout the day. If you have consumed near to your daily requirement, then of course adding an extra 1000 calories in the form of junk food is clearly a terrible idea.

But, as the title suggests, that is not the approach here. We are looking at a protein dense “meal”.

Additionally you may be wondering if pre-sleep protein is bad from a sleep perspective, however studies have shown no effect of pre-sleep protein ingestion on sleep onset latency, sleep quality, and/or next morning appetite in both young and older individuals.

Why eat protein before bed?

In short, it’s because we are looking to maximise muscle growth and with protein being the critical building block in the muscle building process, we need to provide ample amounts on which for the body to utilise. On that basis, if you are having your final meal at say 7pm and then not having your breakfast till 7am, having a whole 12 hours without any protein on which to draw on is less than ideal.

One study illustrates this perfectly. Two groups performed a session of resistance training in the evening, and were all provided with 60g of carbohydrates and 20g of protein immediately after exercise. For one group they were also provided with an extra 40g of protein, whereas the other was given a placebo drink to drink, both taken immediately prior to sleep. Muscle protein synthesis rates were ~22% higher during overnight sleep when protein was consumed prior to sleep compared to participants ingesting the placebo drink. So if your goal is hypertrophy, consuming some pre-sleep protein is a useful weapon in your armory, but what type should we consume?

Types of protein

There are quite a few different types of protein, but the 3 main players are as follows;

1. Whey

It’s always struck me as odd that you come across whey twice in your life. The first is as a child, hearing the nursery rhyme of little Miss Muffet, who famously ate her curds and whey on her tuffet (what are curds?!). The second time is usually when you have started resistance training and are looking for ways to up your protein consumption.

Anyway, Whey protein is a type of protein that is derived from the liquid part of milk that separates from the curds during cheese production. It’s great because it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on it’s own.
It comes in a variety of forms, including powder, shakes, bars, and snacks. It can be added to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal, or it can be consumed on it’s own.

And a crucial distinction for today’s blog post, is that it is fast-acting, making it ideal to consume post exercise to immediately get some protein into your muscles, but less than optimal for taking prior to sleep.

2. Plant protein

Pea, soy, rice, hemp – the list seems to be growing ever more as the desire for more plant based products continues to grow. I can’t speak for all of the many that exist, but plant based proteins are on par with non-plant from a nutritional standpoint, but obviously with the added bonus of being more sustainable and suitable for everyone, vegan or not. They do however tend to have a medium absorption pace, so while better than Whey pre sleep, arguably still not optimal.

3. Casein

The one you have all of been waiting for. Casein, for this particular scenario, is the winner in that it has slow absorption rates, meaning that it would provide a slowly steady release of protein overnight, allowing you to maximise muscle growth. In the study cited above, the group that was given the extra protein before sleep was actually given Casein, so we can see that it can have a big impact on muscle growth.

Its derived from milk and food sources that contain Casein include;

Milk/dairy products
    • Milk
    • Yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Cottage cheese
    • Kefir
    • Sour cream
    • Custard
    • And of course – Protein powder (casein isolate or casein blend)

How much should you consume?

The International Society of Sports Nutrition, recommend 30-40g prior to sleep stating that it can “acutely increase MPS (muscle protein synthesis) and metabolic rate throughout the night without influencing lipolysis.” which is a fancy way of saying it can improve muscle growth without affecting fat levels.


    • Eating small nutrient dense foods prior to bed has no negative impact on body composition
    • Nor does it affect sleep quality, or the ability to fall asleep
    • Casein is the optimal choice for muscle growth, due to it’s slow absorption rates
    • 30-40g of Casein prior to sleep is optimal

    2 thoughts on “Best protein before bed”

    1. Choosing the right bedtime protein is such a game-changer for a good night’s sleep and muscle recovery. This blog post has some fantastic insights! I’ve personally found that a lean source of protein like Greek yogurt or a protein shake with casein works wonders for keeping me satisfied through the night and helping with muscle repair. It’s reassuring to know that making a smart protein choice before bed can have both health and sleep benefits.


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