Nutrition

Muscle building midnight snacks

“when we’re in the gym we’re going to spike that above our baseline and when we eat protein we’re also going to do the same"

Fun fact, protein is pretty ace for building muscles. That’s why so many fitness fans include protein in their main meals. But as it turns out, consuming a protein pre-bed snack could be a cherry on top of your gain building grub. We chat to dietitian and personal trainer, Byron Manning, about where you can put your midnight snack to good use.

Before we jump into your supper snack game, let’s get back to basics an understand why protein is such a muscle building champ.

“To get muscle growth happening you need to have some sort of stimulus and the main stimulus people think of is coming to the gym, lifting heavy objects to tear the muscle fibres. Another stimulus is to eat protein,” says Manning.

Yep name a more dynamic duo: protein and weight lifting. The personal trainer breaks it down for us too, “How they work is with muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. Those two things are in a constant state of flux and your muscles throughout the day are constantly breaking down and built back up, so it’s a bit of a wave.”

He elaborates further on the ways, explaining that “when we’re in the gym we’re going to spike that above our baseline and when we eat protein we’re also going to do the same.” Manning adds that across the span of the day “if we’re getting more of those rises above baseline than those drops below baseline we’re going to have a net gain in muscle tissue” and that leads to muscle growth.

 

Timing is everything

If you’re a fan of resistance training, the idea of a pre-bed protein snack has merit. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that healthy young men who completed a 12-week resistance training program and consumed protein before bed saw greater improvements in muscle strength, muscle size, and muscle fibre size when consuming pre-sleep protein.

To put this theory to good use, Manning has some tips. He reckons you should have your snack as close to hitting the hay as possible - but there are a couple of considerations.

“There’s a certain threshold, if you do a gym session that will provide a stimulus up to a certain amount and it’s the same with protein, up to about 20g to 30g will stimulate muscle protein synthesis maximally - above that you’re not going to get much more of an increase,” Manning explains.

The dietitian also points out that it takes around three to four hours for that peak to settle. “So having our last meal with protein in it as close to possible to bedtime is basically a way of manipulating those spikes in muscle growth,” says Manning. His rationale behind this is basically that you’re going to go to bed and fast for around eight hours, “so you’re not going to have any stimulus coming into you so you want to push that last stimulus as far forward as possible.”

Before you start slamming protein shakes or chicken while you’re kicking off your slippers ready to slide into bed, Manning be weary how your sleep might be impacted. “Some people might find that having something too close to bed makes them feel uncomfortable and their sleep becomes broken, in that case it’s not worth it,” warns the dietitian. So yeah, a bit of trial and error would serve you well in this instance.

Supper snacks

If you’re wanting to whip up a supper snack, Manning’s top recommendation is to avoid supplements. “As a dietitian I will always recommend food first before a supplement such as a protein shake so a great option is dairy, such as a high quality, high protein yoghurt.”

Before you head to the fridge though the dietitian says this muscle building tactic may not work for everyone, and that’s absolutely okay. “Maybe having something too close to bed and feeling like you have a football in your stomach so you have an interrupted sleep,” Manning warns.

And considering sleep is super vital to our health and muscle recovery, definitely don’t sacrifice your snooze time for your snack time because you really won’t be doing yourself any muscle building favours.