Whey or casein before bedtime: what did a new study point out?

Tempo de Leitura: 3 minutos

If you have any doubt about whether you ingest or prescribe Whey or casein before bedtime, the literature has shown that the protein ingested before bed is, in fact, digested and absorbed. Which, in turn, stimulates protein synthesis that reflects on increased muscle mass and strength gain for endurance.

Therefore, we have pre-sleep protein intake being widely recommended as a strategy to improve nocturnal muscle recovery and facilitate the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to physical training.

Therefore, because it is a slow-digesting protein, micellar casein has been the most recommended by professionals to stimulate nocturnal anabolism. Thus, there is a need to compare it with whey protein intake. Is there one better than the other?

Whey Protein or Casein a before bed?

It is known that the Protein intake during exercise recovery increases myofbrillar protein synthesis rates, however it was not yet as well understood whether these same rates are increased for mitochondrial protein synthesis. Since, for myofibrillar, a peak is observed, in about 0 to 6 h, after exercise and for mitochondrial in approximately 24 hours after exercise.

However, the studies focused only on comparing the synthetic response of muscle protein to whey protein and casein intake. Thus, when performing an analysis of the literature, it is observed that while two studies demonstrated higher rates of postprandial muscle protein synthesis after whey intake compared to casein protein, most studies failed to detect significant differences.

Whey Protein, Casein and Literature

Seeking to understand the responses to the synthesis of myofibrillar and mitochondrial protein from the intake of protein in pre-sleep, a study of the type “randomized clinical trial” with 36 healthy young men assigned to ingest 0 g of protein, 45 g of casein and 45 g of whey protein before bed after performing 60 minutes of continuous resistance exercise.

As a result, it was possible to notice that plasma glucose levels showed a transient increase in, but did not differ between treatments throughout the night. While the plasma insulin levels increased after protein intake.

Subsequently, as expected, it was demonstrated that total plasma amino acid levels increase after protein intake. However, the levels were higher between 60 and 90 minutes after ingestion of whey protein when compared with casein intake. In contrast, plasma levels of amino acids at awakening were significantly higher after ingestion of casein. Showing that although whey protein makes amino acids reach the bloodstream faster, the end result does not differ from casein intake.

Finally, the levels of myobrillar and mitochondrial protein synthesis during the night did not differ between the groups supplemented with protein, with no difference in their anabolic capacities. Data that strongly challenge the common belief that casein is the best source of protein for such a stimulus, besides being the first study to show that post-exercise mitochondrial protein synthesis can be stimulated by protein intake.

Clinical practice

Protein intake before sleep has the ability to increase skeletal muscle conditioning after endurance training and thus help athletes improve their training efficiency. According to the study, either supplemental whey or casein before bedtime, provided that the same protein intake is consumed, which in this case was 45g of protein.

Bibliographic references

Reading Suggestion:
Resistance exercise and the promotion of muscle hypertrophy

Watch the video on the Science Play platform –
Revisiting Nutrient Timing: Is there a window of post-workout anabolic opportunity?

Kouw IW, Holwerda AM, Trommelen J, Kramer IF, Bastiaanse J, Halson SL, Wodzig WK, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJ. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Overnight Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates in Healthy Older Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2017 Dec;147(12):2252-2261. doi: 10.3945/jn.117.254532. Epub 2017 Aug 30. PMID: 28855419.

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