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Protein is essential for muscle restoration and growth; therefore, most people consume protein supplements in the form of shakes along with their workouts. The time to drink a protein shake is a hot topic.
Some people believe it is better to drink a protein shake before a workout, while others claim that drinking protein after your workouts provide optimum results. So, when is it too late to drink a protein shake? In other words, when is too late for a protein shake?
It is never too late to drink a protein shake; what matters most is your total daily protein consumption. In addition, research supports that it doesn’t really matter whether you drink a protein shake before or after your workout. However, drinking protein before sleeping increases strength during resistance training found in a 2019 study.
Read on to find out all the fantastic advantages of drinking a protein shake and learn valuable tips for choosing a protein shake that suits you best.
Table of Contents
Is it OK to Drink a Protein Shake Late at Night?
According to experts, the best time to drink a protein shake is about 10 to 30 minutes before bed. In addition, drinking a casein protein shake right before bed can boost your muscle growth and make you stronger.
Also, men who consumed a protein shake containing 20 grams of protein before bed only after resistance training exercises had better post-workout recovery and muscle synthesis (or muscle growth), found another small study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
I would suggest you allow enough time between drinking a protein shake and sleeping so that you can brush your teeth.
See also: Can Smoothies Really Cause Diarrhea?
Is It Good or Bad to Have a Protein Shake Before Bed?
It is good to have a protein shake before bed. It also depends on your health and fitness goals and your diet and food intake throughout the day. If you are struggling to get your daily needs for protein through regular food consumption during the day, a protein shake before bed will help you meet that intake goal.
If you can’t meet your daily recommended caloric or protein needs, a protein shake could be a great option.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends:
- Around 2,600 calories a day for a moderately active male
- About 2,000 calories a day for a moderately active female for weight maintenance.
However, if you are looking to lose weight, your calorie needs should be lower.
Advantages of Drinking a Protein Shake Before Bed
Protein shakes can be an excellent complement to your diet, especially if you are not meeting your daily protein requirements. Here are a few advantages of drinking a protein shake before bed.
Develops and Maintains Muscle Mass
Protein is essential to developing and maintaining lean muscle mass. Your body goes through regular Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB) and Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). MPS is a biochemical process to build, recover, and strengthen muscles, while MPB is the opposite. Exercising accelerates MPB, though protein intake stimulates MPS and aids muscle building.
At night, when you are resting, your body goes into MPB. Drinking a protein shake before bed augments MPS during the night and helps build muscle throughout the night, according to a 2016 study.
Promotes Muscle Recovery
Drinking a protein shake before bed reduces soreness and repairs torn muscles from exercising, mainly resistance training.
A 2012 research examined two groups of young and athletic males who worked out in the evening.
One group drank 40 grams of casein protein before sleeping, while the other drank a placebo drink.
The individuals who took protein increased Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) and net protein balance, therefore, improving their overnight muscle recovery.
Improved Athletic Performance
Drinking a protein shake before bed can increase muscle mass and strength when combined with resistance training, according to a study issued by Frontiers in Nutrition.
Consuming protein helps strength and muscle growth which improves your performance when working out.
In addition, drinking a protein shake before bed helps you exercise longer and build more lean muscle mass.
Other advantages of drinking a protein shake before bed
- Improved overnight muscle reconditioning
- Enhanced strength during workouts
- Improved lean mass
- Ability to work out longer
- Enhanced muscle adaption to strength training
Why and How Much Protein Do You Need?
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The Suggested Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is about 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 g/kg) of your body weight. The RDA is the quantity of a nutrient you need to avoid a deficiency.
However, if you regularly exercise, you may need to double the RDA, or 0.72 grams per pound (1.6 g/kg), to boost muscle recovery and growth, according to research.
For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), you will need 109 grams of protein per day.
Research suggests that for optimal results, try to spread your protein intake over three to four meals consumed every three to four hours.
Why Do You Need Protein?
And adding a healthy protein shake, typically containing 25–30 grams of protein per scoop, is an excellent way to ensure you meet your daily protein intake. You can either consume your protein shake as a snack or around your workout.
When Do You Really Need to Take a Protein Shake?
Most fitness enthusiasts believe drinking a protein shake within 30 minutes of their workout will maximize their results in the gym. The 30-minute window is called the anabolic window, which is a short time in which your muscles are more likely to absorb protein.
The idea behind the anabolic window is that your body will not effectively use it or build muscle if you consume protein outside the anabolic window.
However, research now suggests that this anabolic window of opportunity is much longer than 30 minutes and may not be limited after exercise.
The key takeaway is that whether you take a protein shake before or after your workout doesn’t matter in optimizing muscle growth and repair. What really matters is your daily protein intake. So, I would recommend you focus on meeting your daily protein requirements.
Tips For Choosing a Protein Shake
Casein protein, produced from milk, is the best protein choice to drink before bed because it digests slowly and helps you build muscle better than other forms of protein, such as whey or pea, according to an August 2016 report in Nutrients.
It’s also crucial to avoid protein shakes that have sugar because combining carbohydrates with protein may increase your insulin levels, promote fat storage, and can negate any beneficial effects of drinking protein on its own.
When choosing a protein shake, look at the ingredients listed in the product description and ensure it doesn’t include sugar in any form. Sadly, protein shale producers don’t always list sugar as “sugar,” so watch out for the following ingredients:
- Corn syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- Cane juice
- Golden syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
What Happens if You Miss a Protein Shake
It is okay to miss taking a protein shake. What matters more is your overall protein intake over a sustained period of time; some volatility in protein intake day-to-day will not make a huge difference.
Generally, people consume a protein shake after a workout to refuel and repair (therefore grow) their muscles.
Instead of stressing about finite details and timings, I would recommend looking at whether or not you are consuming enough protein in your overall daily diet. Recovery occurs after you work out; therefore, it is essential to ensure you are consuming enough to repair body tissues.
Of course, consuming whole-food protein sources should make up the bulk of your consumption, but a protein shake is perfect if you are looking for a more convenient way to top it up, particularly if you’re someone who is always on the go.
Just ensure to eat enough food to make up for the difference, and to meet your macros, don’t rely too heavily on protein powder; it is just a supplement to fill in the gaps if you can’t. For instance, foods such as meats, nuts, eggs, and milk have protein in them (check out the list of foods below)
Just eat more food to make up for the protein you would typically get from powder. You actually don’t even need protein powder if you can get enough from your food every day. Here are some alternatives to protein shakes.
Alternative to Protein Shakes
If, for some reason, you don’t like protein shakes, below are some alternatives for you: Check out this article I wrote on the 32 foods that will burn belly fat fast, according to science, and the 9 best mushrooms that have the most protein.
- Greek yogurt with nuts
- legumes, lentils, and peas
- Bowl of oatmeal with cut fresh fruit
- Turkey slices or canned tuna
- Cottage cheese
- Fish and seafood
- Apple or banana with 1-2 tbsp of peanut butter
Overall, it is never too late to drink a protein shake; what matters the most is your daily total daily protein intake.
However, if you want to build muscles, consider combining resistance training and drinking protein before bed for maximum results.
More importantly, ensure you are getting enough protein throughout the day, and both supplements and foods can help you meet your goals.