Sunday, June 16, 2024

Does Eating Just Before Sleeping Make You Fat?

My elder son (pictured above) is on a muscle building spree. He's been trying to strength train while eating lots of protein. I've also mentioned to him that consuming protein right before sleeping would lead to greater improvements in muscle strength and muscle size. 

When he was 9 in 2019
He then mentioned that he had watched videos on Tik Tok that suggested that eating just before sleeping will make one fat

Is that what you think too? That eating before sleep makes you accumulate fat because you are resting for many hours after you eat. Well, let me show you that this is untrue. Note that this is with pre-sleep protein consumption. 

Data from men and women show that consuming protein pre-sleep does not change overnight fat metabolism (breakdown of fats to be used as energy). When research participants consume either caesin protein (found in milk, cheese and yoghurt) or a non caloric placebo, there was zero difference in the overnight fuel use or energy expenditure. There was also no difference in the amount of fat liberated from the fat cell measured with a technique called microdialysis.

This may be a big surprise to you as it is often thought that eating before bed will inhibit fat metabolism. Now you know it is not true. Protein consumption helps improve strength, recover from strenuous exercise as well as maintain and improve metabolic and structural health. Evidence suggests that the average person should consume 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Athletes should consume closer to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Pre-sleep protein has also been found to decrease next morning hunger. Adequate protein consumption also promotes satiety, leading to a reduction in over-eating.

Plant protein my son consumes
What type of protein should you eat before bed? Recent literature suggest no difference in muscle recovery after pre-sleep consumption of dairy/ animal or plant-based (rice/pea) combination as long as enough of each is consumed. It also comes down to dietary preference. Most of the earlier research used whey or casein proteins due to a high leucine (thought to trigger growth) content. 

Whey and casein protein were more popular previously due to their ease of digestion and availability. Especially since plant based protein were not so easily available then and they cost more. Most pre-sleep protein research uses casein followed by whey protein since plant-based protein has less leucine. A greater amount of plant-based protein is needed to be consumed to elicit the same response compared to a lower amount of animal-based protein.

Hence pre-sleep protein consumption does not make you gain fat. Now you know.


Allman BR, Morrisey MC, Kim Js et al (2020). Lipolysis And Fat Oxidation Are Not Altered With Presleep Compared With Daytime Casein Protein In Resistance-trained Women. J Nutr. 150(1): 47-54. DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxz186.

Kinsey AW and Ormsbee M (2015). The Health Impact Of Nighttime Eating: Ols And New Perspectives.Nutrients. 7(4): 2648-2662. DOI: 10.3390/nu7042648

Saracino PG, Saylor HE, Hanna BR et al (2020). Effects oF Pre-sleep Whey Vs Plant-based Protein Consumption On Muscle Recovery Following Damaging Morning Exercise. Nutrients. 12(7): 2049. DOI: 10.3390/nu12072049.

Snijders T, Trommelen J, Kouw IWK et al (2019). The Impact Of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion On The Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response To Exercise In Humans: An Update. Front Nutr. 6(16). DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00017.

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