Strength training and a protein shake before bed – does it work?

If you drink a protein shake before going to sleep, you’ll make more muscle protein during the night. You knew that already. And if you do weight training that evening too, the muscle build up will increase even more. Ok, you knew that too. But strictly speaking, it hadn’t been scientifically demonstrated. Now it has, and Dutch nutritionists have published their findings in the Journal of Nutrition.

Strength training in the evening and a protein shake before bed – does it work?
The researchers gave two dozen men, average age 70, an evening meal at 18:30, and then just before they went to bed a shake containing 40 g casein. Amino acids in the protein were labelled so that the researchers could see whether they entered the bloodstream or were absorbed by muscle cells.

Half of the men trained their legs on the leg press and a leg-extension machine at 20:00, so 2.5 hours before they were given the protein shake.

The researchers took samples of muscle cells from the men’s legs just before they went to bed and early the next morning, and measured the muscle tissue manufacture. They also monitored the concentration of amino acids in the men’s blood via catheters.

During the night, just over half of the amino acids in the protein shake appeared in the blood of both groups, and the net production of muscle protein increased. The increase was about a third higher in the men who had trained [PRO+EX] than in the other group [PRO].

The protein shake did not have a negative effect on the men’s sleep – in fact it improved the quality of sleep.

Strength training in the evening and a protein shake before bed – does it work?
“Protein ingestion before sleep may represent an effective nutritional strategy to preserve muscle mass by stimulating and supporting muscle protein accretion during overnight sleep”, the Dutch nutritionists wrote.

“The current data extend on previous observations and are the first, to our knowledge, to show that physical activity performed throughout the day increases the efficiency by which dietary protein ingested before sleep is directed toward de novo muscle protein synthesis in older individuals.”

“However, ingesting larger protein doses may not be feasible or practical in all older or clinically compromised populations.”

“Therefore, older individuals who are unable to ingest large amounts of protein can still benefit from ingesting smaller amounts of protein (less than 40 g) before sleep by performing physical activity beforehand. As such, a physical activity program should be implemented in combination with presleep protein ingestion to benefit from the synergy between physical activity and protein to increase overnight muscle protein accretion to support healthy aging.”

Physical Activity Performed in the Evening Increases the Overnight Muscle Protein Synthetic Response to Presleep Protein Ingestion in Older Men1,2,3


The age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass is partly attributed to anabolic resistance to food intake. Dietary protein ingestion before sleep could be used as a nutritional strategy to compensate for anabolic resistance.

The present study assessed whether physical activity performed in the evening can augment the overnight muscle protein synthetic response to presleep protein ingestion in older men.

In a parallel group design, 23 healthy older men (mean ± SEM age: 71 ± 1 y) were randomly assigned to ingest 40 g protein intrinsically labeled with L-[1-13C]-phenylalanine and L-[1-13C]-leucine before going to sleep with (PRO+EX) or without (PRO) performing physical activity earlier in the evening. Overnight protein digestion and absorption kinetics and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates were assessed by combining primed, continuous infusions of L-[ring-2H5]-phenylalanine, L-[1-13C]-leucine, and L-[ring-2H2]-tyrosine with the ingestion of intrinsically labeled casein protein. Muscle and blood samples were collected throughout overnight sleep.

Protein ingested before sleep was normally digested and absorbed, with 54% ± 2% of the protein-derived amino acids appearing in the circulation throughout overnight sleep. Overnight myofibrillar protein synthesis rates were 31% (0.058% ± 0.002%/h compared with 0.044% ± 0.003%/h; P < 0.01; based on L-[ring-2H5]-phenylalanine) and 27% (0.074% ± 0.004%/h compared with 0.058% ± 0.003%/h; P < 0.01; based on L-[1-13C]-leucine) higher in the PRO+EX than in the PRO treatment. More dietary protein-derived amino acids were incorporated into de novo myofibrillar protein during overnight sleep in PRO+EX than in PRO treatment (0.042 ± 0.002 compared with 0.033 ± 0.002 mole percent excess; P < 0.05). Conclusions: Physical activity performed in the evening augments the overnight muscle protein synthetic response to presleep protein ingestion and allows more of the ingested protein-derived amino acids to be used for de novo muscle protein synthesis during overnight sleep in older men. This trial was registered at Nederlands Trial Register as NTR3885. Source: