Thursday, July 30, 2009
Eating every 3 hours or so has the effect of providing your body with a steady stream of nutrients throughout the day. Small, frequent feedings of high-quality protein maintain the amino acid levels needed to repair and build new muscle.
Needless to state, this process is interrupted at night, by sleep. Once the
nal meal has been digested and absorbed, no more food is eaten until
the next morning. And even though you’re sleeping, your body still uses
energy. Other biochemical processes continue as well. During the posta-
bsorptive state, the needs of the body must be met using stored nutrients.
Although protein synthesis still occurs, the body enters a net catabolic
state. By morning, the rate of protein degradation is greater than protein
synthesis. Skeletal muscle contains nearly one-half of the total body pro-
tein and plays an important role in maintaining the free amino acid pool
during this period.
Feeding eventually restores the balance between protein breakdown and
synthesis, although it would be nice to nd some way to prevent - or at
least reduce - the amount of muscle protein breakdown during sleep.
In the supplement section review of casein, I discussed a study, “Slow and
fast dietary proteins di erently modulate postprandial protein accretion”,
that examined the impact of protein digestion rate on protein synthesis
and breakdown. The researchers compared whey to casein. What they
found was that a quickly digested protein like whey was better for increas-
ing protein synthesis, while a slow digesting protein like casein resulted in
a much lower, prolonged enhancement of amino acid levels - which wasn’t
very e ective for boosting synthesis, but was good for preventing protein
So there’s a possibility that a small amount of a slow protein like casein,
consumed at bedtime, would maintain amino acid levels su ciently to
blunt the catabolic e ects of fasting on your muscles while we sleep.
Is there any proof at this point that having a “bedtime snack” will result in
extra pounds of muscle? None at all. In view of the research, my take is
that a snack before sleep is a wise precaution, but strictly optional.
Does it have to be casein? Maybe not. Most animal proteins digest much
more slowly than whey does. But casein is an extremely large protein, and
associates with other caseins to form large complexes that gel in the stom-
ach and are especially di cult to digest. So, unless you’re allergic to it,
casein is probably one of the best proteins you could use for this purpose.
A good bedtime snack will contain about 30 - 50 g of protein, with minimal
carbs. A small amount of healthy fat could be added to slow digestion even
further. It doesn’t need to be elaborate: this isn’t a full meal. A couple of
scoops of a casein-based protein powder or some cottage cheese should
do the trick.
These nutritional enhancements won’t work miracles, of course. If your
training and/or nutrition over the rest of the day aren’t up to snu , con-
suming pre-/post-workout drinks and eating a bedtime protein snack
won’t make up for those shortcomings. In conjunction with a good training
program and diet however, these additions have the potential to add to
your success. It’s your entire program of nutrition, supplementation and
training that will bring success, not one or two simple changes.
Just remember, it’s not rocket science, so don’t make it any more compli-
cated then it needs to be