Eating in the evening has long been a controversial topic. Everyone seems to have their own magic number:
“You’ll get fat if you eat anything past 10!”
“11 is the latest you should eat anything”
“Eat dinner at 8 and then nothing else”
While it is true that eating late at night can lead to weight gain, it depends on what you eat and how much. More studies are being done on what can be eaten at night, and what shouldn’t.
Many individuals who really watch what they eat and exercise are familiar with protein shakes. Whey protein is a low-carb, low-fat, and low-calorie powder that when mixed with water or milk offers a quick source of quality protein.
Protein shakes are typically taken before or after a workout to supplement muscle recovery after they are broken down. It’s not unusual for people to drink a protein shake as a meal replacement on the go or substitute it for breakfast. What most people don’t think about, however, is drinking a protein shake before they sleep.
Eat right before I sleep?!
It may seem counterintuitive to drink a protein shake before sleeping. Many would think the calories and nutrition would sit in the stomach and over time lead to weight gain. But this isn’t the case.
Recent studies using a protein shake 30 minutes before bed and at least 2 hours after dinner have shown increased muscle protein synthesis, recovery, and overall metabolism in acute and long-term settings. Acute refers to something sudden; in the medical setting they use the term to signify something recent or short-term.
Results indicate that no matter what group was tested (fit or overweight) metabolic rate was elevated the next morning and throughout the day. Drinking protein at night can in fact maintain lipolysis (breakdown of fats) and fat oxidation (burning fat for fuel). Therefore, drinking protein at night can help you lose weight while making you less hungry the next day.
While whey protein is the #1 choice for protein supplementation, it’s not the best when it comes to losing weight and reaping the full benefits of a nightly shake. Instead, you should opt for casein.
The fundamental difference between whey protein and casein protein is that whey is digested quickly (immediately) while casein is digested slowly (over hours). Casein tends to clot in the stomach, which makes it harder to digest. This won’t cause any problems; in fact, this allows the protein in casein to be absorbed more fully. Studies show casein offers a sustained release of protein over time so your muscles are constantly being fed protein over the course of hours.
Because of its slow-digesting nature, people will feel full for longer with casein. Although a lot of people take whey so they can build muscle by eating again a lot sooner. But the quick-digesting nature of whey causes some protein to turn into fat rather than being used for muscle. This is why casein should be used if weight loss and toned muscles are your goal.
In all the studies on a nightly shake, they confirm that casein protein resulted in the greatest protein synthesis while offering the greatest weight loss. Overweight participants of one study exhibited elevated insulin levels the next day along with decreased hunger.
It is important to note that pre-bedtime shakes should generally be taken on days of exercise. The rise of insulin from the shake is counteracted by exercise allowing the greatest weight loss potential.
Timing is key
Most of the studies show the shake should be ingested at least 30 minutes before sleeping, and at least 2 hours after dinner. The timing might be hard for some, which is why a morning shake may be preferred.
A study by Antonio et. al. for the International Journal of Exercise Science had participants taking protein either in the morning (before 12 pm) or at night (90 minutes or less prior to sleep). Results demonstrated a 0.8 kg increase in fat-free mass for the nighttime group. While the results were not statistically significant, there is some benefit to a nighttime shake.
One of the reasons people struggle with losing weight is that they are discipline all day then eat poorly at night. Cravings for sweets are known to peak around 8 pm which is why we struggle so hard at night. However, a shake at night might help curb these cravings.
While some might think the shake might disrupt sleep, it has no effect. Participants of a study by Dr. Tim Snijders of Maastricht University in Netherlands had the same sleep quality as before and it did not take longer for them to fall asleep.
Despite common belief, eating late at night can actually benefit you. However, it depends on what you eat. One of the best things you can eat is a protein shake. Not only will it help you lose weight and build muscle, it will raise your metabolism and help control insulin levels.
When it comes to what kind of protein to take, it’s best to take casein. Its slow digesting nature will help combat catabolism during sleep and help you feel fuller the next day. It’s important to note that because it’s slow digesting, the shake will be a lot thicker than a whey protein shake so more liquid should be used when making it.
While drinking a shake before bed (about an hour) provides optimal results, a shake in the morning will have similar effects. It would not be wise to drink a shake in the morning and night because of the dehydrating effects of protein powder. Your kidneys will be placed under too much stress.
There is nothing to lose by drinking a shake before bed so give it a try! Just remember to give yourself enough time to drink water and use the restroom before you sleep.
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