Effects of Pre-Sleep Whey vs. Plant-Based Protein Consumption on Muscle Recovery Following Damaging Morning Exercise

Nutrients. 2020 Jul 10;12(7):2049. doi: 10.3390/nu12072049.


Pre-sleep whey protein intake has been shown to improve overnight muscle protein synthesis, muscle size and strength, and muscle recovery. Despite a growing interest in alternative protein sources, such as plant-based protein, there is no evidence regarding the efficacy of plant-based proteins consumed pre-sleep. Therefore, we aimed to compare whey vs. plant-based pre-sleep protein dietary supplementation on muscle recovery in middle-aged men. Twenty-seven recreationally active, middle-aged men performed 5 sets of 15 repetitions of maximal eccentric voluntary contractions (ECC) for the knee extensors (ext) and flexors (flex), respectively, in the morning. Participants consumed 40 g of either whey hydrolysate (WH, n = 9), whey isolate (WI, n = 6), rice and pea combination (RP, n = 6), or placebo (PL, n = 6) 30 min pre-sleep on the day of ECC and the following two nights. Catered meals (15% PRO, 55% CHO, 30% Fat) were provided to participants for 5 days to standardize nutrition. Plasma creatine kinase (CK), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and interleukin-10 (IL-10) were measured at pre, immediately post (+0), +4, +6, +24, +48, and +72 h post-ECC. Isometric (ISOM) and isokinetic (ISOK) maximal voluntary contraction force were measured at pre, immediately post (+0), +24, +48, and +72 h post-ECC. Muscle soreness, thigh circumference, and HOMA-IR were measured at pre, +24, +48, and +72 h post-ECC. CK was increased at +4 h post-ECC, remained elevated at all time points compared to baseline (p < 0.001), and was significantly greater at +72 h compared to all other time points (p < 0.001). IL-6 was increased at +6 h (p = 0.002) with no other time differing from baseline. ISOMext was reduced after ECC (p = 0.001) and remained reduced until returning to baseline at +72 h. ISOMflex, ISOKext, and ISOKflex were reduced after ECC and remained reduced at +72 h (p < 0.001). Muscle soreness increased post-ECC (p < 0.001) and did not return to baseline. Thigh circumference (p = 0.456) and HOMA-IR (p = 0.396) did not change post-ECC. There were no significant differences between groups for any outcome measure. These data suggest that middle-aged men consuming 1.08 ± 0.02 g/kg/day PRO did not recover from damaging eccentric exercise at +72 h and that pre-sleep protein ingestion, regardless of protein source, did not aid in muscle recovery when damaging eccentric exercise was performed in the morning.

Keywords: dietary protein; exercise; muscle damage; muscle recovery; plant-based protein; strength.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myalgia / epidemiology
  • Oryza / metabolism
  • Pea Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Sleep*
  • Whey Proteins / administration & dosage*


  • Muscle Proteins
  • Pea Proteins
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary
  • Whey Proteins
  • Creatine Kinase