What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Too Much Protein Right Before Going To Sleep

Protein really is the building block of your body. You need it for good organ function, muscle repair and recovery, immune health, and healthy nails, hair, and skin. Unsurprisingly, you're typically advised to consciously add it to your diet if you're following a nutritious meal plan and to consume lots of it if you lead an active lifestyle or engage in weight training.

However, there is such a thing as having too much protein, especially if it's right before bedtime. In fact, eating a heavy meal high in fat and protein content mere minutes before you drift off to sleep is never a good idea if your goal is to get good-quality sleep

"Your body's not designed to be digesting food when it's sleeping," Kelly Glazer Baron, a clinical psychologist with specialty training in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, shared with HuffPost. And protein is particularly problematic when consumed too close to bedtime for the same reason you're asked to choose protein over fast-digesting carbs at the dinner table: It takes a long time to digest. 

You might feel uncomfortably full

Your body is made in such a way that when it's gearing down for rest, things like digestion and insulin sensitivity change. 

"When you eat late at night, you're going against your body's circadian rhythm," explained registered dietitian Alexis Supan (via Cleveland Clinic). While insulin sensitivity is on alert during the day to help your body get through the various activities you have planned, "insulin resistance kicks up at night," shared Supan. Having too much protein right before bed might mean that anything extra gets stored as fat in your system. 

It is also possible that you feel uncomfortably full while you sleep, notes the National Sleep Foundation. But the key words here really are "too much" and "right before." Everything from your weight to activity levels dictates just how much protein you should be consuming per day. And nutritionists generally recommend that you have your last meal at least three hours before bedtime. That being said, there are some studies that have been done on the benefits of drinking a slow-digesting protein shake like casein, especially for those who train or lead active lifestyles. So perhaps, there is also the question of what type of protein you could be having before bed and what your activity levels are. 

Casein (protein) before bed might benefit those who exercise regularly

A 2012 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that consuming the protein casein before bedtime increased muscle protein synthesis (the process of creating new muscle protein) in its participants. It also aided post-exercise overnight muscle recovery. 

There are other studies linking casein with overnight muscle repair and muscle growth in those who exercise, according to Healthline. Studies of this nature "have fuelled the idea that over a longer period, a pre-sleep protein supplement can maximise the strength and muscle mass gains during regular resistance exercise training," shares Dr. Tim Snijders from Maastricht University, Netherlands (via Men's Health). 

None of this negates the fact that too much protein can become a problem for your body, whether consumed during the day or right before bedtime. The takeaway here is that you should be considering your activity levels, weight, age, and the kind of protein you're consuming, especially if you're thinking about drinking a protein shake before bedtime for muscle repair. When in doubt, seek the advice of a health professional.