We’ve all heard that old wives’ tale, that if you eat and then sleep right away, you’ll gain weight. This idea has caused a lot of people to forgo dinner entirely, sleeping on an empty stomach so their bodies are in a fasting state until breakfast the next morning.
The truth of the matter is, eating before bed won’t cause you to gain fat, poor eating habits will. However, will eating before bed help you gain muscle? That depends on what you eat.
We’ve established that carbohydrates won’t help you gain any muscles by themselves. Carbs are simply an energy source and can turn into extra fat if you’re not managing your diet and workouts correctly.
However, protein is unlikely to get turned into fat; so in fact, the actual question you want to ask is this: does protein synthesis happen while you’re asleep? The answer is yes, and you’re about to find out how.
Protein Synthesis and Gains During Sleep
Here’s the deal. If you’re looking to get massive and put on those muscles, then you should absolutely eat protein before bed. Studies have found that drinking a protein shake can help increase protein synthesis when you’re asleep, just like when you’re awake.
In fact, studies that have looked into gains correlated to recovery between your training sessions found that consuming protein before bed causes you to recover faster between workouts. This means you’re literally getting bigger while you’re doing nothing!
Then Why Fast?
If you were to stop reading right about now, you’d probably come away from this article believing that fasting is actually unhealthy, since it stops you from making the most of your protein synthesis, thereby slowing your bodybuilding journey.
However, there’s currently a controversy about fasting versus consuming protein before bed. A lot of builders are hugely supportive of fasting before sleep. The truth of the matter is, fasting is just as important as getting gains.
Fasting by itself won’t cause you to lose any muscle. When you fast, you start a process called autophagy, and essentially during that state your body gets the chance to clean its cells out.
Why is that important?
Studies have shown that if you eat more food at the beginning of the day, and have a light dinner, ending the day by fasting before bed, you’re more likely to get leaner. If your goal is to lose body fat–maybe you’re looking to get leaner, or maybe you’re prepping for a contest–shifting your calories to early in the day should help you reach your goals faster.
Our Recommendations for Protein Consumption Before Bed
We recommend throwing in some days where you’re not eating protein before bed or even when you’re fully fasting before bed. Not only will it help make you leaner, it’s a way to keep your body guessing.
You can’t let your body get too comfortable in any given state, because then it will adapt, which can lead to your body slowing your metabolism and becoming more efficient at storing calories.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for long-term growth, don’t drink your protein shake before bed for 1-2 days. This will help put your body into a state where it will focus on cleaning cells out. This helps maximize your mitochondria production, and your insulin sensitivity.
So yes, having protein before bed when you’re on a mass cycle would be a terrific idea; however, you also need to understand that you should let your body clean its cells out around 1-2 times a week. This will help you get gains in the long term. And if you’re dieting down before a contest, shift your calories to early in the day and fast for 1-2 days before bed for maximum fat shredding.
We hope we cleared up what having protein before bed–or skipping it–will do to your body! We’ll see you in our next article.