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Protein: sleep fuel?

Protein is typically thought of as a muscle-building supplement, but its uses go beyond that. This study looked at the potential for protein supplementation to improve sleep during a weight-loss diet.

Study under review: Higher-protein diets improve indexes of sleep in energy-restricted overweight and obese adults: results from 2 randomized controlled trials

Introduction

When you think about the interaction between sleep and diet, it’s probably in the context of the effects that sleep has on dietary choices[1], glucose control[2], or energy balance[3]. Less appreciated is the fact that it may also go the other way around, with diet (and macronutrient choices) affecting sleep quality.

The effect that dietary patterns, particularly protein intake, have on sleep has not been well-studied, but limited research[4] suggests there may be a connection. Observational studies have shown that higher protein intake is associated with an earlier mid-point of sleep[5] (an indicator of human chronotype - the tendency for an individual to sleep during a certain time of the day), and adults who consumed a moderate protein intake (more than 11.9% daily energy) were more likely to have better sleep-wake regularity[6] than those consuming a low protein intake (less than 10.8% daily energy intake). However not[7] all[8] studies suggest a positive relationship between increased protein and improved sleep. A small number of interventional studies have evaluated the effects of protein intake on sleep parameters, but they have often used shorter-duration and/or non-practical scenarios.

While there is an emerging[9] body of research[10] connecting sleep with a wide range of health markers, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found an insufficient body of evidence for associations between sleep patterns, dietary intakes, and obesity risk. Because of the limited research available, particularly looking at the effects of protein on sleep over extended time periods, the purpose of this new study was to examine the effects of various types and amounts of protein intake during weight loss in middle-aged adults who were overweight or obese.

It is possible that manipulating protein intakes while dieting could be beneficial for sleep quality, due in part to an increased amino acid availability, which can lead to an increased synthesis of brain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and melatonin.

There is a growing appreciation for the importance of sleep and the effects it has on food choices, weight gain, and metabolic health. However, the effects of dietary choices such as protein intake on sleep are not as well-studied or understood. This study examines the effects of protein intake during weight loss on sleep quality in adults who are overweight.

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