My advice: Read this article – it’s important.
Much is made of nutrient-timing during the post-workout period, and rightly so. This meal (usually liquid) is essential for kick-starting the anabolic process after the catabolic activity of working out.
But not enough is made of an equally important period – night time. How should we eat before sleeping to ensure optimal nutrition for muscle growth?
Remember, what you put in your mouth at this time is the only nutrition your body will receive over the next 8 or 9 hours.
So to fuel growth, we obviously need protein to last us all night. I’ll work on the assumption that this is going to be 8-9 hours.
This is where slow-absorbing protein powders like Casein are usually recommended.
But I don’t recommend casein or other slow-absorbing proteins.
Why not? The truth is that real food is the best slow-absorbing protein there is. Real, solid-food from protein sources like chicken, eggs, fish, and so on. Casein and other bedtime powders are a monumental waste of money.
In fact, let’s now reference an earlier article of mine on the Top 5 Sources of Protein for Building Muscle to get a better idea of how we should eat. This is not my opinion, but the scientific truth regarding the best proteins in terms of its completeness (amino acid profile) and bio-availability.
This table is from that article.
Being a ‘complete’ protein refers to the amino acid profile of the protein. A protein that contains all the aminos is called a complete protein. The more complete, the better.
The bioavailability of a protein refers to the amount of that protein that will actually end up getting absorbed and used by the body. The higher the bioavailability, the better!
WHAT PROTEIN SOURCE AND HOW MUCH TO TAKE
A solid food meal of protein, fat, and carbs will absorb at the rate of 4-5g protein per hour. Let’s err on the side of caution and take the 5g/hr figure.
5 x 9 = 45g protein
So to get through the night, all you need is a solid food meal containing around 45g protein.
Now obviously whey is not an option here as it absorbs much too quickly (about 10g/hour).
So, in order to be anabolic all night and fuel growth from the very best protein sources, you should be opting for:
Or any combination of these. These are the top 4 night-time proteins in my opinion.
The top 4 night-time protein sources are eggs, fish, beef, and chicken - fact Click To Tweet
So to hammer it home: At bedtime you should eat around 45g protein (if not a little more) from eggs, fish, beef, or chicken.At bedtime you should eat 45g protein from eggs, fish, beef, chicken to stay anabolic all night Click To Tweet
All meat is around 25% protein by weight. So 45g protein can be obtained from ~180g or about 6.5oz of meat or fish.All meat is around 25% protein by weight. So 45g protein = ~180g or about 6.5oz of chicken, fish etc. Click To Tweet
But remember to count the protein from the other food on your plate (they count too, so you’ll need less actual meat than this). Also, an egg contains around 6g protein.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t include milk, we have to balance out the above bio-availabiluty figures with the actual AMOUNT of protein in the foods e.g. milk might be high in bioavailability, but you’d have to drink a hell of a lot to get enough protein.
CARBS & FAT
For the other 2 macros, it really just depends on what diet your own. If you are carb-cycling like my MANS diet, this will be a high-fat meal with 45g protein. If you’re on a higher-carb diet, like my GLAD diet, then it’s going to be 45g from protein and whatever carbs and fats will meet your macros for the day. Simple. Don’t overthink it.
Regarding whey protein, here are my recommendations:
My recommended European protein | Recommended US protein
(Are you a vegetarian? See my top vegetarian sources of protein for bodybuilders.)
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Quality article. Straight to the point! Love it.
Luckily for me, this is what I was doing, but I didn’t know why lol. Been eating egg and chicken at night. But it seems I was just a little low. Gotta bump up another 10g protein to hit 45g.
UI am an ovo-lacto vegetarian because I believe that (due to the Heisenberg indeterminacy of what electrons do in the brains of sentient creatures) conscious animals have a measure of free will and intrinsic dignity which requires that Kant’s categorical imperative be applied to them – you can’t kill them for food. Therefore I prefer Greek yogurt before bed. I add a couple of tablespoons of ground flax-seed and sometimes other nuts. Two cups does nicely.
In your 45 gram estimate, you are assuming that protein is being utilized in muscle building at a uniform rate throughout the night. Given all I know about sleep cycles, the assumption seems a bit of a stretch.
mark can we just break eggs and drink it raw . ??.
Hi mark, do we include 45g protein at bedtime into the daily total protein needed, or the 45 g protein is needed in addition to the daily required protein? For example, I need around 150g protein daily, so do i eat 45g protein at bedtime in addition to the 150g protein?
@Jeff raw eggs don’t get absorbed by the body. They need to be cooked for the enzimes in your body to digest them. The raw eggs thing looked cool in Rocky movies but it’s really pointless.
@Jeff. It’s not a good idea, buddy. Raw eggs have a much lower bio-availability than cooked. So go cooked. A study on this here: https://jn.nutrition.org/content/128/10/1716.full
@Sam. This 45g is part of your daily total. So in your case, you’d need to take 105g protein earlier in the day (150 – 45).
Hey mark, i wanted to ask that when i start with maximum weight on my first set of an exercise, how much do i decrease the weight by on the next 2 sets. Secondly when can i go up in weight? Is it when i can use the same heavy weight i used for the first set on all sets?
Mark, Is this 45 grms for protein based on a certain body weight? For a 115 lb girl, should it still be 45 grms? Thanks!
@Khalid. Read this…
The question I get asked most frequently about THT training is:
How do know what weight to use in each set?
It’s clearly answered in the free THT manual. But here is the answer.
Getting starting in THT training, we use an 8-12 rep range for almost every set.
This means that for each and every set the weight needs to be heavy enough to not allow you to get more than 12 reps, bit it needs to be light enough so you can get at least 8. This will involve a little ‘trial and error’ on your first 1 or 2 THT workouts, but it’s well worth the gains you are going to get.
If you got 8 or 9 reps on the first set of a particular exercise, you will need to knock off about 10% of the weight for the 2nd set to allow you to and rep to positive failure again between 8 and 12 reps.
What is positive failure? Positive failure is defined as that point in a set when you can no longer complete a full positive/lifting/raising of the rep without assistance. This is when you end your set.
On any set that you get 12 reps in, you make a note to increase the weight for that set during the next workout.
My training sessions ends up about 1h before bed time.
Should I take my 40g of protein in my post workout shake, and say, another 45g in my last meal before bed time?
Although I know we can take more than 40g of protein at once, that sounds a little too much.
@Vicky. The 45g is irrespective of gender or stats. It’s based on protein absorption rates. That’s what matters for staying anabolic all night.
@Michel. No. You’d still benefit from some liquid protein.Take 20g in liquid protein while you train so that you’ve finished it when you finish working out. Then before bed a solid food with about 25-30g protein.
@Guy Stuart. Hey there. It’s not an issue of utilization, but of absorption. We have no control of utilization, but we do over the amount of protein and absorption rate. All we can do is eat in a way that ensures a steady supply of amino acids into our system for every hour that we are asleep.
I understand that protein in water is easily and quickly absorbed but what if you mix it with milk, yoghurt or kvarg? Being a vegetarian options are limited and if I eat any more eggs I’ll grow feathers! 😉
what abt boileD eggs?
I was told our body can’t rest when it’s digesting so to leave 3 hours after your last meal before you go to sleep? And when I finished training at 8 that was too late to eat anything??? How long before bed should you eat the slow release protein?
@Chris. Yes that will slow it down for you. I’m not sure to what rate, though.
@Jeff. Boiled eggs are fine 🙂
@Nicky. That’s just totally wrong. Of course the body can rest while it’s digesting food. Heck, many people fall asleep after a big meal. You were mis-informed I’m afraid. You can take food right up to the minute you fall asleep if you want. I eat probably an hour or so before going to bed each night.
What about milk? And what’s your opinion for intermittent fasting (IF)? I know it’s mainly for weight loss, but since it releases growth hormone (GH), is it also beneficial for hardgainers? Coz u sound like u advocate eating at 3-4 meals with supplements in between