Loving the BITE: Pre-Sleep Muscle Sparing Shake


Typical cyclist nutrition wish-list: Lose fat, gain muscle, improve strength to weight ratio, continue to improve on the bike and feel strong while riding, no cramps, no bonking, no stomach issues, no starving.  Stay healthy throughout the season.  Recover quickly.  Train/race harder the next day.

A tall order, I know.  And, it’s the same list from pros and amatuers.  There are many factors that go into a nutrition plan to cover all daily nutrition and training nutrition.  In previous posts, we’ve dicussed a lot of options for hydration, lytes, and fuel on the bike.  This week, our Loving the Bike recipe will provide some support for many of these other requests…and it’ll taste good doing it.

Recipe of the week:

Before-Bed Muscle-Sparing Chocolate Cherry Protein Shake


  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ Tbsp organic coconut oil
  • ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt (or, 1 scoop any protein powder at 80-100 calories)
  • ½ cup pitted cherries or berries
  • 1-2 Tbsp organic cocoa powder


  1. Place chia seeds and water in blender or food processor.  Allow to set for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from clumping up.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.  Process/blend until smooth.
  3. Don’t allow to set for long, or you’ll end up with pudding (the chia seeds will continue to “gel”).  Drink ~30-60 minutes before bed.


Why a pre-sleep protein shake?  There’s a few reasons to drink up:

First, here’s how it can help you lose fat:

  • Many cyclists, who are trying to lose fat, find that they are hungry, or eat out of habit, before bed.  This shake made with chia seeds, provides satiety to help fill you up, without a lot of extra “junk” dessert calories that you don’t need.
  • Having a set portioned dessert can save a lot of calories compared to “grazing.” I often recommend that clients “close the kitchen” after dinner or after a small dessert, and not allow themselves to graze throughout the evening.  If you plan on this one shake after dinner, there’s not any gray area that allows extra calories to creep in.
  • The healthy fats in the shake, including medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) from coconut oil and omega-3s from chia seeds promote healthy, steady hormone levels that discourage insulin resistance.  It’s a long story, but overall, the less insulin resistance (and more insulin sensitivity), the less fat accumulation.

How it helps you spare muscle:

  • If you’re training hard, your body continues to burn extra calories long after you park the bike.  During the night, as you fast for several hours, your body will burn some muscle in the absence of food intake.  Long lasting proteins, like those found in Greek yogurt, provide a steady stream of available protein that can reduce overnight muscle catabolism.  In fact, the dairy proteins specifically contain branch chain amino acids and glutamine, which distinctly promote muscle recovery after training.  And, in case you’re wondering, it’s not just wishful thinking…studies show reduced catabolism and increased muscle gains when protein is consumed by athletes before bed.  Don’t eat dairy?  No worries, nut proteins, soy, or vegan mixed proteins are all good choices for a pre-bed muscle sparing shake.

How it improves overall health and wellness:

  • This shake is simply loaded with health-promoting nutrients.  Cocoa and cherries/berries promote reduced bodily inflammation and provide loads of antioxidants,  chia seeds provide fiber and super healthy omega-3s fats, and organic coconut oil provides a good energy source in MCTs that are also anti-inflammatory.

If you’re ready for bed, you’re ready for our muscle-sparing shake.   By cutting down on evening snacking and filling up on protein, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants, you can give your muscles an edge and keep them around for when you need them.  On the bike.

Fuel Your Ride.  Nourish Your Body.


Enjoy Your Ride

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12 Responses to “ Loving the BITE: Pre-Sleep Muscle Sparing Shake ”

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  2. Matt Doyle on September 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Ok – just built the recipe with Unjury protein powder and Greek blueberry unsweetened yogurt with a handful of dried cherries following everything else. Wow, the only advice is a few ice cubes to get it cold but amazing taste. Thanks and I like it that it took very little time.

    • Kelli Jennings on September 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Matt – thanks so much for your comment – I always love to hear if recipes are working well for readers. I’ve had a client make several days-worth of the shake ahead of time to save time (can leave in fridge for 48 hours, or freeze and allow to thaw in fridge for 24 hours); it may get slightly thicker like pudding, but it’s another option. Thanks again!

  3. Pamela on August 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Another yummy recipe! Will have to try this one out.

    P.S. My mom gave me some eggplants from her garden. Going to use the other recipe too!

    • Kelli Jennings on August 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      Awesome! Let us know what you think of them… Take care!

  4. Kelli Jennings on August 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    It is a tricky balance with sleep, fat loss, and muscle sparing. Some experts would suggest that the fast through the night, without a snack beforehand is better for fat loss. The issue is the muscle loss that accompanies the fat loss in an athlete who’s training at a high level and trying to control food intake. I find that it’s better to reduce muscle loss, and to promote fat loss with an overall calorie deficit and limit of carbs. And, for that athlete who is HUNGRY, it’s better to have small pre-planned snacks like this than to allow hunger to build up and result in a binge. I’d love to hear about any of your experiences with it!

  5. RD Green on August 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I’ve never known of the benefits of nutrition like this before sleep. It is interesting to learn about it all.

    • Kelli Jennings on September 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Thanks for your comment – we certainly hope you enjoy this shake if you try it! Take care!

  6. Don on August 23, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for the recipe. Will it also help me sleep better at night? I don’t eat before bed and I am wondering how this will affect my sleep.

    • Kelli Jennings on August 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Good Morning Don, Thanks so much for your comment. This is such a legitimate concern, and I’m happy for the chance to address it. In my experience, 2 issues that can negatively affect sleep when actively trying to lose fat AND train hard are 1) a too-hollow-stomach feeling going to bed, and 2) too much liquids before bed. Obviously, this shake should help anyone who’s keeping dinner intake light to have some satiety before going to bed – the whole food protein + fiber really helps. For the latter, this is the exact reason I’ve kept the liquid to just 1/2 cup, which is quite a small amount for a shake, and makes for a very thick shake. The total volume of it is just 1 cup when you’re all done, so the goal is to pack a lot of filling, muscle-sparing ingredients, without too much volume and liquid. As always, I recommend “light” dinner of vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats, so you should still not be “stuffed” going to bed. I hope this answers your question and I wish you many good nights of sleep (one of the most important aspects of wellness!). Take care! Kelli

      • Brenda on August 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm

        I was going to ask the same question but someone already did. Thank you for your concise answer to this question.


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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

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