We all know the importance of including high quality protein supplements in your fitness nutrition regimen. For decades, supplement scientists have emphasized remarkable increases in anabolism and protein synthesis when protein powders are strategically combined with resistance training. Although this science provides molecular level evidence for the benefits of protein supplementation, there are few studies that illustrate protein’s impact on tangible fitness indicators like muscle growth and/or increased strength performance.
In a recent registered clinical trial, scientists from the Netherlands provide compelling evidence that weight training combined with pre-bedtime casein protein supplementation significantly boosts muscularity and strength (more than training with a placebo). Published in The Journal of Nutrition, subjects were randomly assigned to a pre-bedtime protein supplement (27.5g casein protein, 15g carbohydrates, 0.1g fat) or placebo group and enrolled in a supervised resistance-training program—3x per week for 12 weeks. Prior to and after the training program, changes in muscularity were evaluated using whole body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, limb computed tomography (CT) scans, and muscle biopsies. Changes in strength were assessed regularly by 1-repetition maximum (1RM) strength testing.
Remarkably, the researchers reported that those in the pre-bedtime casein protein supplement group had a 26% greater increase in overall strength and 75% increase in quadriceps muscularity (indicated by a measure of cross-sectional area) versus those in the placebo group!
ACTION POINT: If you train regularly and want to maximize increases in strength and muscularity, we recommend taking in 25-50g of a high quality protein blend or whey protein isolate 30 to 60 minutes pre- and immediately postworkout. For an extra kick don’t forget to take 25-50g of micellar casein or a casein blend immediately prior to hitting the sack.
Snijders T, Res PT, Smeets JS, van Vliet S, van Kranenburg J, Maase K, Kies AK, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJ. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr. 2015 Jun;145(6):1178-84.