“Don’t eat before going to bed. It will make you fat!”

I’m sure we’ve all heard this statement once or twice from less than credible sources, but this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. It completely ignores the principles of meal composition, meal timing, and daily caloric intake. In this article, we will discuss how pre-bedtime meals, specifically those high in protein, can aid in maximizing your progress in the gym.


Muscle Protein Synthesis and Protein Timing

Before diving into pre-bedtime nutrition, it is important to discuss muscle protein synthesis and protein timing. Studies indicate that 30-40 grams of high quality protein is sufficient to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is the anabolic process by which our bodies use amino acids to make new proteins, allowing us to build bigger muscles.

Ideally, we want to have elevated levels of muscle protein synthesis for as long as possible throughout the day in order to remain in an anabolic state. Consuming more than the aforementioned amounts of protein in one sitting doesn’t necessarily mean more muscle protein synthesis. If you consume about 1g of protein per pound of body weight and you weigh 200lb, muscle protein synthesis will be elevated longer throughout the day if you consume 5-6 meals containing 30-40g of protein each rather than consuming two meals with 100g of protein each.

A study conducted by Areta et al. illustrated this exact point. This group of scientists wanted to analyze the levels of muscle protein synthesis throughout a 12-hour period following a bout of resistance exercise. Three groups were studied; bolus which consumed 2x40g of protein every six hours, intermediate which consumed 4x20g of protein every three hours, and pulse which consumed 8x10g of protein every hour. The results showed that the intermediate group had significantly higher muscle protein synthesis throughout the 12 hours when compared to the other two groups. [2] These results reinforce that protein timing and distribution is crucial.

A question that may arise is that if more frequent protein intake is superior, then why did the intermediate group have elevated protein synthesis when compared to the pulse group who consumed 10g protein hourly? Research is indicating that there may be a minimum threshold needed to stimulate adequate muscle protein synthesis. Thus, the 10g consumed hourly by the pulse group may not be sufficient protein to optimally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

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