I'm currently only able to exercise right before heading to sleep. I'm a bit short on my protein intake, and I've been thinking about mixing in some protein supplements in the smoothies I'm making myself. However, protein, to my understanding should be consumed after exercising, not before. But I've also read that you should stop eating at least two hours before you go to sleep. This leaves me with the choice of eating right before heading to bed, or not eating, and missing the protein that would help me post-exercise. I could possibly push it, so I'll wait 30 minutes before sleeping, but I can't make it 2 hours.

So basically, question is which is worse, eating right as I'm about to sleep, or not getting the protein post-exercise?

3 Answers 3


First, most recommendations about frequency of eating and timing of eating don't have any appreciable real benefit. Whether you get all your daily nutrition in 3 meals or 6 only matters in what helps you stick to your nutrition plan. If you do better eating small meals throughout the day, do it. If you do better with multiple larger meals, go for it. Long story short:

Any recommendation of not eating at least N hours before bed is suspect.

The only place I've seen something different is when we are talking about a good insulin spike. It takes about 7 hours for your body to switch from burning carbs to burning fat. If you are concerned with burning as much fat as possible, be concerned if your last meal contains carbs. Since you are talking about having a protein shake before bed, the insulin response is not enough to cause your body to completely switch over where it's pulling it's energy. If you are happy with your body composition, there is nothing to worry about at all--except that you have to keep in mind that protein shakes also have calories.

Studies showing the efficacy of protein have mixed results.

What this means in lay terms is that it doesn't matter as much when you consume the protein as the amount you consume. While it has been proven that your body can only process protein so fast, and exercise prepares your muscles to use the protein in your diet, it hasn't been proven you have to consume the protein just after you eat. If you have your protein before exercise, it still takes time to process, and it will be present when your body is ready for it.

Long story short: it doesn't matter which you choose. If your stomach gets upset consuming it post workout, try it pre-workout. Either way it will still do what it needs to.


I remember sitting in a class where the sports nutrition guy (from the University of Birmingham) said it was important to eat after exercise, but within 30 minutes of this. The idea is that you take on carbohydrates more effectively and this, in turn, keeps your energy levels up. He said if you didn't do this then you would suffer muscle fatigue quicker when exercising, and you would suffer from lower muscle performance.

I have always thought that eating before going to bed was bad for you because the food will just lay in your stomach and isn't digested properly. It is said that it takes four hours to be digested. With this in mind, I always wait the four hours after eating before going to bed.

If you allow time for your food to digest properly then you shouldn't experience any issues.


In my opinion, it's not even a question. Definitely get your protein in. Your body needs to recover after a workout and you need protein to do so efficiently. In fact, you should look into buying Casien protein powder instead of the regular type. It is suggested that Casien protein is slower to break down and helps you maintain anabolic state when you are sleeping.


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