Timing is essential. This adage is applicable to most things in life, including protein shakes. Whether you take protein before or after a workout can change how it impacts your body, so timing it right is vital. Unfortunately, there is no simple right/wrong answer when it comes to taking it before or after exercising.
In this guide, we explain whether you should take a protein shake before or after your workout, depending on your goals. Learn how to choose the right protein product for you and your needs, as well as when you should take it.
When to Drink Protein Shakes
Not only does the best time to drink a protein shake depend on your workout goals, but it also depends on the rest of your diet, and when you last ate. As a result, calculating when to drink protein can be a bit of a nightmare.
The positive news is that some studies suggest a regular intake of protein is more important than consuming your entire load at once. In other words, sipping a protein shake more slowly throughout the day could be more beneficial than eating all your protein in one sitting at dinner.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that muscle-building increased when participants consumed a moderate amount of protein throughout the day compared to eating the recommended daily amount at once.
To best make use of this, you can use a protein shake that you drink throughout the day. However, some people still like to get into the routine of drinking the shake before or after a workout.
Furthermore, although many researchers now believe that the quantity of protein consumed is more important than the timing, the issue is still up for debate. If you believe that timing is essential, then here is a breakdown of the effects of drinking protein shakes at different times.
Protein After a Workout
The leading theory behind drinking a protein shake after a workout is related to something known as the anabolic window. It refers to a theoretical 30-minute window after exercising when the body can make the most use of nutrients like protein.
Recent research suggests that the anabolic window does not exist, but this does not mean that post-workout protein has no place.
During exercise, especially weight training, the muscles can break down under stress.
During exercise, especially weight training, the muscles can break down under stress. Protein is necessary to repair and rebuild – possibly even bigger than before – the muscles that were used. It is, therefore, vital to use protein at some point in order to repair the muscles and gain mass.
For many people, protein shakes provide a convenient way to do this. It’s also possible that shakes could provide protein that is more readily available to the body than what you get from a solid meal.
In summary, protein shakes are ideal for post-workout muscle repair, but you are probably not limited to a 30-minute window.
Protein Before a Workout
Having a protein shake before a workout is thought to be better for those attempting to maintain muscle mass. When you consume protein before training, there is a circulating pool of amino acids, ready for use by the body. The aminos can encourage muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which helps the muscles to recover better.
A pre-workout shake could thus benefit you by promoting MPS, ensuring that your body knows where to focus the protein as the muscles break down during exercise. While many protein sources, such as meat, may take several hours to be readily available, the amino acids from whey protein can be available within about an hour, ensuring that you are ready to push your limits.
When Is the Best Time to Drink a Protein Shake?
It should be evident by this point that scientists are starting to realize that there is no best time to take protein. It’s likely that taking the right amount of protein – 0.36 g per pound of body weight – is more crucial than ingesting it at a particular time.
Nevertheless, some gym-goers are keen to know whether it’s best to drink protein before or after a workout. Below is a quick run-down of when best to consume protein according to your goals.
Contrary to popular belief, protein is essential for fat loss. This is in part because protein keeps you fuller for longer, ensuring that you are not tempted to keep snacking.
A 2014 study in the Nutrition Journal found that those who ate a high-protein afternoon snack consumed 100 fewer calories at dinner. As a result, individuals looking to lose weight should drink a protein shake in the afternoon, sometime before a meal. Consider replacing your regular snacks with a whey protein shake.
Building muscle requires consuming more protein than the body breaks down during exercise. The current belief is that taking protein 15-60 minutes after exercise can boost your protein uptake; this is the anabolic window, which probably does not exist.
According to a 2017 study carried out by the International Society of Sports Nutrition, consuming protein within two hours of exercise can help you build muscle mass. As a result, the window is much bigger.
However, those who train before breakfast – i.e., in a fasted state – may benefit from protein more quickly after a workout since they haven’t eaten in a while.
For athletes, recovery is vital. It’s likely that combining protein and carbohydrates both during and after exercise can help endurance athletes to recover adequately. In 2008, a study found that 11 cyclists who consumed a protein and carb beverage during training experienced improved recovery compared to those who took a placebo.
Conversely, those engaging in resistance training may be able to recover sufficiently using a protein-only source, without carbohydrates. Again, it can be consumed both during and after exercise.
Benefits of Protein After a Workout
Here is a brief overview of the benefits of taking a protein shake after a workout:
- Protein may benefit muscle recovery if also consumed during the workout.
- It may aid in building muscle.
- It can benefit the muscle-building process further in those who have not eaten in a while.
- The faster you consume protein post-workout, the quicker you can begin muscle recovery.
- Drinking a protein shake post-workout is a quick way to access protein, and it can also replenish fluids lost through sweat.
Benefits of Protein Before a Workout
These are some of the benefits of drinking whey protein before a workout:
- For those who haven’t eaten in a while, a pre-workout protein shake frees up amino acids.
- Protein can ensure that you feel fuller for longer, ensuring a comfortable workout and no snacking down the line.
- If you exercise in the morning, a protein shake is a quick way to consume calories and protein on your way to the gym.
- Pre-workout consumption can prevent muscle loss. However, muscle retention also requires evenly spacing out protein consumption throughout the day.
Summary on Best Time to Take Protein
There is no correct answer regarding taking protein before or after a workout. Although it was once believed that weightlifters had to take a supplement within a 30-minute window after training, scientists now think that overall daily intake may be more critical.
There is no correct answer regarding taking protein before or after a workout.
Since many Americans consume much more protein at dinner than they do at breakfast, having a protein shake early in the day can help you to evenly space out your intake and prevent you from getting hungry, reducing snacks and therefore aiding weight loss.
In the end, sufficient protein intake is the most important thing. You should consume 0.36 g per pound of body weight in order to stay in the green.
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