Should You Have a Protein Shake Before Bed? Here’s What RDs and Sports Dietitians Say

If you tend to get your protein in powder form, you may wonder when’s the best time to have a protein shake: first thing in the morning, pre- or post-workout, or before bed? While new research has shown us that protein timing is less important than we once thought—the important thing is consuming enough high-quality dietary protein overall—drinking a protein shake before bed may have some special benefits. 

Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

To get you the inside track on the subject, I talked to registered dieticians and certified specialists in sports dietetics Destini Moody and Jenna Stangland to find out the benefits and potential drawbacks of drinking protein before bed.

What Is a Protein Shake?

A protein shake is exactly what the name implies: a shake containing protein! Protein shakes can be as simple as a mixture of water and protein powder, or they can be complex and contain multiple ingredients blended up into drinkable goodness. 

[Read More: The Best-Tasting Protein Powders on the Market]

Common protein powder ingredients include: 

Protein powder

Whey protein powder

Whey isolate protein powder

Casein protein powder

Vegan protein powder

Nut butter, such as peanut butter or almond butter 

Fruit, like bananas and strawberries 

Other supplements, such as creatine or carb powder

Greek yogurt or cottage cheese 

Milk or plant-based milk


Types of Protein Powder

Whether you’re a simple protein shake person or love creating scrumptious protein smoothies at home, you can choose from a few different types of protein powder.

Whey Protein

Often considered the best protein supplement for its impressive protein-to-carb ratio, high amino acid content, easy digestibility, and great mixability, whey protein is made from cow’s milk. More specifically, it comes from the liquid whey formed when milk is separated during the cheese-making process. It naturally has a high amino acid content and is very soluble, making it easy to mix with plain water or milk in a simple shaker bottle.

Casein Protein

Casein is a sibling to whey. When liquid whey is separated from milk, so are solid curds. Those curds are used to make food products like cottage cheese, but also casein protein powder. Because of its origin, casein protein is much thicker than whey and usually requires much more liquid to become drinkable. It’s a great choice if you like protein pudding. 

Plant-Based Protein 

A variety of plant protein powders can help you reach your goal daily protein intake, too, though it’s important to be mindful of amino acid content. Because most plants are incomplete proteins—meaning they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids—it’s important to choose complementary proteins to add to your shake or choose a plant-based protein powder that includes protein from multiple plant sources. 

Note: Soy protein is, indeed, a complete protein—so you’re all good with your essential amino acids needs there.

Some common plant proteins found in protein powder include: 

Soy protein

Pea protein 

Brown rice protein 

Pumpkin seed protein 

Chia seed protein 

Quinoa protein 

Flaxseed protein 

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The official recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to the USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USHHS). That number represents the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which is considered the minimum amount of protein sufficient for sustaining physiological processes. 

If you’re an active person—particularly one trying to build muscle—you likely need more. What constitutes “enough protein” differs for different people, but in general, active individuals are encouraged to aim for 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. 

[Read More: How Much Protein Do You Actually Need Per Day?]

Some research shows that around 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight is the sweet spot for muscle gain; other research suggests that consuming more than 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight could be useless at best and dangerous to your health at worst. (1)(2)(3)

Need help figuring out how to customize this number for you and your goals? Check out BarBend’s protein intake calculator.

Protein Intake Calculator






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Very intense exercise: 2+ hours of elevated heart rate activity.

Potential Benefits of Drinking a Protein Shake Before Bed

Let’s take a look at how beneficial it is to make protein part of your bedtime routine. 

It Keeps You Full 

One of the pros of having a protein shake before bed is it can help calm nagging nighttime cravings, Moody explains. “Given that protein is so satiating, a before-bed protein shake can prevent you from reaching for high-calorie snacks,” Moody says.

[Read More: The Best Protein Powders for Women on the Market]

If one of your fitness goals includes weight loss, adding an evening protein shake to your daily ritual may help you stay in a calorie deficit and avoid unwanted weight gain. (4)

It Helps With Muscle Recovery 

For those focused on athletic performance and performing well in the gym day after day, consuming a protein shake before bed may assist with muscle recovery, Moody says. Specifically, some research has shown casein protein shakes to be especially beneficial with regard to overnight recovery. (5)(6)

“This is because casein is slower at digesting than whey and it is theorized that this allows amino acids to be gradually delivered to your muscles overnight,” Moody explains. 

[Read More: The Best Clean Protein Powders on the Market]

If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, Stangland recommends pea protein for a slower-release option. Slow-digesting proteins “essentially provide a ‘trickle’ effect of those amino acids getting into the bloodstream to repair tissue throughout the night,” she says.

It Assists With Muscle Growth 

Trying to pack on the muscle mass? You’ll be pleased to know that pre-sleep protein may increase muscle protein synthesis rates and mitigate muscle protein breakdown, thus keeping your body in a positive net protein balance. 

“If someone is looking to build muscle or gain mass, a protein shake is a way to give the body additional grams of protein, calories, and nutrients that can be broken down and absorbed overnight,” Stangland says.

[Read More: Ways to Eat More Protein to Pack on Muscle Mass ]

“Having a protein shake before bed supplies the body with the nutrients it needs heading into sleep,” she continues. “Sleep is an essential component of recovery, and while we sleep, the body releases human growth hormone, a hormone that primarily is released during sleep and not during the day.” 

Human growth hormone (HGH) stimulates muscle protein synthesis, thereby playing a key role in repairing damaged muscle fibers and building muscle tissue. (7)

Credit: ALL best fitness is HERE / Shutterstock

[Read More: The Best Protein Powders for Muscle Gain]

Consuming protein before bed also supplies the body with amino acids to drive this repair and rebuild process. 

“There are certain amino acids the body needs that it can’t make on its own, and we need to get them from food—so having a protein shake before bed will make for greater amino acid availability in the bloodstream that the body can utilize,” Stangland explains. (7)

Note: As ever with all exercise science, different studies seem to contradict each other. One recent study suggests that protein shakes may not have any effect on body composition

Check out our coverage of the study here: Pre-Bedtime Protein Does Not Preserve Muscle Mass, Suggests New Study

It May Help With Endurance Recovery and Performance

While oodles of studies have been performed on the effects of drinking protein before and after resistance training and its effects on muscle strength, not as much has been performed on the benefits of protein for endurance athletes. 

However, a 2023 study in the journal Sports Medicine found that pre-sleep protein ingestion increases mitochondrial protein synthesis rates. For endurance athletes, mitochondrial proteins are critical: They play a major role in aerobic metabolic processes, which are the foundation for endurance sports. (8)

[Read More: The Best Protein Powders for Men on the Market]

This research indicates that consuming protein before bed may be an excellent idea for endurance athletes looking to optimize recovery, Standland says.

Potential Drawbacks of Drinking a Protein Shake Before Bed

There are a few potential negatives associated with drinking a protein shake before bed, though most can be mitigated or eliminated by choosing the correct protein source for your body and being mindful of other ingredients.

It May Cause Digestive Upset

Depending on the ingredients in your protein shake, having one before bed (or any time, really) may upset your stomach. And having an upset stomach before bed is certainly not ideal! 

“A lot of the ready-to-drink protein shakes have artificial sweeteners, fillers, sugars, or other unnecessary ingredients in them that don’t functionally benefit you,” Stangland says. “If you are making the protein shake yourself, you can control what you put in it and use whole food ingredients, like plain Greek yogurt, seeds, and spinach.”

[Read More: How to Improve Your Gut Health — Evidence-Based Guidance for a Strong Stomach]

It’s best to avoid ingredients you know mess with your digestion, as well as avoid trying any new-to-you ingredients for the first time right before bed. This way, you can minimize the risk of gas, bloating, or other digestive symptoms — especially while you’re trying to get your full eight hours.

It Could Impair Sleep

Moody says that one big con of drinking protein before bed is that “ingesting calories from any source too close to sleep time can disturb sleep quality.” 

“Digesting nutrients is a highly metabolic activity,” she explains, “which doesn’t mesh well when your body is trying to shut down for the night.” 

[Read More: Pre-Bedtime Protein Does Not Preserve Muscle Mass, Suggests New Study]

That said, if you’re not having your protein shake with a big meal right before bed, you’ll likely sleep just fine. The important thing is not to consume anything that will be tough for your body to digest right before you intend to go to sleep. 

It May Spike Blood Sugar

Eating or drinking before bed can cause a spike in insulin depending on the ingredients, Stangland says, so you want to be especially mindful of the protein shake you choose to consume. 

“There are ways to reduce or even avoid a spike, such as by having water as the liquid and a pure whey protein isolate or plant-based protein powder,” she says. “And, if you want to add a fiber such as ground flaxseed or chia seeds, that would help prevent insulin spikes.” 

The key is to avoid a high amount of sugar just before bed. 


Protein is an important macronutrient for building muscle.

Drinking a protein shake before bed can assist with muscle recovery and muscle growth.

Pre-sleep protein can help minimize nighttime cravings.

Being mindful of timing and ingredients is essential for avoiding stomach upset and sleep disruption.

The time of day of your protein consumption matters less than your overall daily protein intake. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions people ask most often about protein at bedtime.

Is it good to have a protein shake before bed?

Drinking a protein shake before bed may help your muscles recover from exercise and may help your body build muscle. Protein is an important macronutrient and consuming a high-protein diet is essential for muscle growth. Pre-sleep protein can also help you stay full and reduce cravings, which is helpful for those trying to lose weight. 

Will having a protein shake before bed disrupt sleep?

It’s possible that having a protein shake before bed can disrupt sleep, since digestion can impair sleep. As long as you have the protein shake with sufficient time before bed (30 minutes or longer) and stick to ingredients that won’t upset your stomach, you should sleep fine. 

How long before bed should I drink a protein shake?

Because digestion can interfere with sleep, it’s best to consume a protein shake at least 30 minutes before bed. If your shake includes ingredients other than protein, such as yogurt, peanut butter, or fibrous fruits or vegetables, you may want to consume it at least one hour before bed to avoid sleep disruption. 

Does a protein shake before bed burn fat?

No, drinking a protein shake before bed does not directly burn fat. In fact, simply consuming a protein shake before bed without changing any other habits may increase your daily calorie intake without increasing your calorie expenditure, which can result in weight gain. 

However, drinking a protein shake daily while adhering to a resistance exercise routine can build muscle, and having a lot of muscle tissue helps maintain a healthy metabolism. 

Is it better to drink a protein shake in the morning or before bed?

The time of day you consume your protein shake doesn’t matter as much as consuming sufficient protein overall, according to research from the International Society for Sports Nutrition. “The optimal time period during which to ingest protein is likely a matter of individual tolerance,” the ISSN reports, “since benefits are derived from pre- or post-workout meal ingestion.” (9

Does drinking a protein shake before bed speed up metabolism?

No, drinking a protein shake before bed does not directly speed up your metabolism. It may, however, help with muscle repair and muscle growth, thereby helping you gain muscle mass over time. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, and generally, more muscle mass results in a faster metabolism overall (though likely not to the extent you may have been led to believe). (10, 11

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.


Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1136.

Phillips SM, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health [published correction appears in Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 May;47(5):615]. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(5):565-572.

Delimaris I. Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults. ISRN Nutr. 2013;2013:126929.

Hao Y, Li X, Zhu Z, Cao ZB. Pre-sleep Protein Supplementation Affects Energy Metabolism and Appetite in Sedentary Healthy Adults. Front Nutr. 2022;9:873236.

Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, et al. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(8):1560-1569.

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Snijders T, Trommelen J, Kouw IWK, Holwerda AM, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJC. The Impact of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion on the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise in Humans: An Update. Front Nutr. 2019;6:17.

Trommelen, J., van Lieshout, G.A.A., Pabla, P. et al. Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion Increases Mitochondrial Protein Synthesis Rates During Overnight Recovery from Endurance Exercise: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sports Med 53, 1445–1455 (2023).

Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:20.

Park J, Kim S. Validity of muscle-to-fat ratio as a predictor of adult metabolic syndrome. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(3):1036-1045.

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Featured Image: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

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