Maximize muscle building by taking Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and protein after training and at strategic time points after your workout. Dietary protein and BCAAs are the most important part of nutrition to support protein synthesis and stay lean. A new study shows that no matter if you train morning, noon, or night (or middle of the night, for that matter), you’ll still trigger muscle building if you feed your body with protein.
The study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, tested the effect of strength training late in the evening followed by a large protein feeding on rates of muscle building and sleep quality. Participants performed three sets of leg curls and leg press exercises starting at 8 pm. They ingested 20 grams of whey protein immediately after training, and then at 11:30 pm were given either a placebo or a protein drink that consisted of 40 trams of protein that contained primarily the amino acids phenylalanine, leucine, and tyrosine. Participants then went to sleep.
Researchers were able to measure plasma amino acid levels throughout the night with a catheter device, and they tested protein synthesis rates via a muscle biopsy of the quadriceps before participants went to sleep and again in the morning when they woke up. Plasma amino acid levels were significantly elevated throughout the night in the group that received the pre-bedtime protein drink compared to the placebo group. Amino acids were nearly doubled from the extra protein, and muscle synthesis was almost 25 percent greater in the quad muscle from the protein feeding over the placebo when participants woke up in the morning.
The results showed that pre-bedtime protein feeding after strength training triggers a dramatic increase in muscle synthesis that has serious implications for strength and muscle development for all populations. None of the participants had trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, and they all reported decent sleep quality. This is somewhat surprising because most protein sources trigger neurotransmitter activity that energizes the brain and can keep you awake. For example, the amino acid tyrosine is particularly energizing and will make you alert, whereas the amino acid tryptophan will usually have a calming effect and put you to sleep. Carbohydrates tend to be more calming on the neurotransmitters and can elevate serotonin to put you to sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping, it’s possible that pre-bedtime protein feeding and training late in the day are not ideal. Still, this study calls our attention to the critical role nutrition plays in making training gains and getting the most out of the hard work you do in the gym. Strategic protein feeding is essential. You should take protein and BCAAs immediately after training and at orderly time points for the next 24 hours for best results. If you have to train late in the day, taking protein at night will still be effective for recovery and muscle building if it doesn’t keep you awake.
Researchers suggest that for anyone who has trouble gaining mass, protein supplementation at night may be an effective nutritional strategy. Additionally, the elderly who have a well known blunted muscle synthesis response to protein feeding may benefit as well. If they are not kept awake by pre-bedtime protein feeding, taking extra protein or BCAAs before bed may help prevent muscle loss and frailty.
To read more about workout nutrition, check out the article Top Five Things You MUST Know About Post-Workout Nutrition
Res, P., Groen, G., et al. Protein Ingestion Prior to Sleep Improves Post-Exercise Overnight Recovery. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.