Best Time to Take a Protein Shake – Before or After Your Workout?

Jeff Baldelli
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Science and Protein Shakes

We’ll let you in on a little secret: people who want to increase their protein intake can easily do this in ways that don’t require them to take protein shakes.

Many athletes and people trying to lose weight create a diet where they consume mostly lean proteins and eat high protein snacks like eggs, meats, and dairy products.

The problem with relying on these sources is that they might not have the right carbs and fats that the body needs. Athletes, for example, need to be careful about getting enough complex carbs and healthy fats in their system.

For this reason, many athletes and those who want to lose weight turn to protein shakes and bars. These products give the body the extra nutrients it needs.

For this reason, many athletes and people trying to lose weight create a diet where they consume mostly lean proteins and eat high protein snacks like eggs, meats, and dairy products.

The problem with relying on these sources is that they might not have the right carbs and fats that the body needs. Athletes, for example, need to be careful about getting enough complex carbs and healthy fats in their system.

For this reason, many athletes and those who want to lose weight turn to protein shakes and bars. These products give the body the extra nutrients it needs.

The Best Time to Take a Protein Shake – Exploring The Options

There are two main periods of the day when you can consider having a protein shake in your body: before and after exercise.

Both are beneficial, although the after-workout period is typically the most popular. In this section, we’re going to talk about both the before and after-exercise options, and why one may be better for you.

Before You Work Out

Shameless plug: We’re going to be talking about why you should consider using Whey Hard, but an alternative is egg white protein (which you can find here).

The type of protein that you consume before your workout is very important. You want to make sure that you have enough building blocks available for the muscles to use, but there’s a fine line between enough and too much.

To give you an idea of how to get the right amount, if you’re consuming a bunch of red meat and chicken every day, the upper limit of protein is the body’s ability to break it down. If you’re consuming a diet high in fat and carbs, the upper limit is a little over 1g per pound of body weight.

When You Get Up

The healthiest way to take your protein shake is to drink it directly after you get up in the morning and have had your shower.

The reason why you should take the shake before you eat anything else is because you don’t want to take it with other food that will slow down the digestion process.

For example, if you have a protein shake for breakfast, then eat a bowl of cereal a few hours later, the protein shake will just sit in your stomach and not get digested.

Before Your Workout

The reasoning for consuming your protein shake before you workout is that it will help you work out for longer and harder.

Especially if you have been running or biking for days, your muscles will feel fatigued.

By consuming the proper amount of protein, you will give your muscle cells what they’re lacking so that they can have more power and energy to do the work that you’re giving them.

Also, if you work out on an empty stomach, then you can break through a plateau you may be experiencing because you’ll have more energy to perform well.

Here’s an example of what effective pre-workout fueling can do. You can check out the product there and read the reviews.

At Bedtime

Some of you may be able to relate to the struggle of wanting to get in some protein before bed but being worried about the bloating side effects. This is the number one reason why you need to consume your caseinate protein before bed. Caseinate is a slow-digesting protein that will help to regulate your digestion process throughout the night.

At Breakfast

If you are the type of person who likes to get their day off to a great start, a whey protein shake with the carbohydrates of a hearty bowl of cereal is the right choice for you. Opting for a smoothie for breakfast will help to start your metabolism and give you the energy you need to make it through the morning.

After Your Workout

Once you kick off the day with your well-balanced breakfast, including a protein shake can be the icing on the cake for your day. Some popular fitness plans recommend consuming a post-workout shake as often as every two hours or so to get the most out of your workouts.

Your Workout Length

Shakes can be consumed immediately before or after your workout, but if you are going to work out longer than an hour it is important to consume protein, energy source, and carbohydrates before and after your workout.

Before a Workout

Taking protein before a workout can help you to recover more quickly and more efficiently.

This is especially true if you exercise every day.

Studies show that pre-workout protein refueling can help athletes, especially endurance athletes, recover faster and enhance performance (1).

Studies show that using protein before working out following a strength training session can lead to significant strength and power gains (1).

In addition to supporting lean muscle growth, a recent study published in the journal Nutrients revealed that taking protein before a workout could help to improve the training regimes of older men (1).

After a Workout

Another point in favor of taking protein after a workout is that it could reduce the amount of soreness you experience following a strenuous workout or sport.

A number of studies have found links between protein consumption and the relief of muscle soreness (2).

A study in the journal Nutrients found that consuming protein after a workout could potentially increase the muscle protein content during a period of strength training. The study states that this can positively affect future training sessions (3).

Protein after a workout has even been linked to improvement in certain tests of athletic performance (4).

This makes sense given that consuming protein after a workout can begin to repair damaged muscle in the body.

After Your Workout

Drinking a protein shake after your workout is a great way to repair and rebuild your muscles. But how exactly do protein shakes help you recover so quickly?

Protein helps to repair damaged muscle cells.

During a workout, your muscles are constantly broken down, but when you eat a protein shake, it speeds up this process. It also eliminates pain and inflammation, allowing you to move and perform better next time.

Most athletes lack enough protein in their diet to get the best results from their workout.

A lot of times, people don’t want to eat a lot of meat before a workout because it can make them feel bloated and heavy, but they also don’t want to skip the protein, as muscles need it to stay strong and repair themselves.

Protein shakes are the perfect solution because they are low in fat and carbs, so they are easy to digest, and they also contain several grams of protein.

As long as you drink a protein shake made with healthy ingredients, you’ll gain health benefits as well as athletic benefits.

As we’ll further discuss in the “What to Look For When Buying a Protein Shake” section, look for a protein shake that is high in protein, low in fat, and low in sugar.

As a Meal Replacement

On days when you don’t have time to dine well, protein shakes can make for an easy solution to those problems. Perfect for those days you have to rush off to work or school, or even for when you’re just too exhausted to cook a big meal, protein shakes can provide the solution. If you’re pressed for time, a protein shake makes it easy to have a fast and healthy meal.

However, protein shakes can also be used in a non-meal replacement capacity. If you want to accompany your intermittent fasting, for example, then a protein shake can serve as a nice meal. If you want to speed up your metabolism, protein shakes also work. The added calories provided by a protein shake will do wonders do your metabolism.

The thing to note here is to make sure doing this isn’t replacing your usual good meals. Protein shakes should be supplementary to your normal meals.

As a Post Workout Meal

Post-workout means it follows your work-out. For the purpose of this article, most of what we discuss relates to pre-workout. If you’re into bodybuilding, you’ll need to do post-workout. Even the pros take the time to do this.

Protein Shakes & Weight Loss

There are hundreds if not thousands of articles on whether it’s a good idea to drink your protein shake before, during, or after a workout.

Protein shakes (that are based on chocolate cows, unicorns, or dinosaurs and taste terrible) help to build muscle and expedite the recovery process from hard, high-performance workouts.

Some protein shakes are even engineered to aid in fat loss and detoxification, although many experts warn against it.

So should you drink your protein shake before or after?

Well, it depends on what the whole purpose of taking the protein shake in the first place is.

Let’s face it … No matter how good a protein shake tastes, you’re not going to continue taking them if they upset your stomach.

However, it’s very likely that your protein shakes will upset your stomach if you take them after you already worked out.

To a degree, this is a reaction of the stomach to the shake containing caffeine, but also some sort of inflammatory combination of the protein powder itself.

So what’s the solution?

It’s actually quite simple.

Drink your shake before your workout.

Gaining Muscle with Protein Shakes

The ability of a protein shake to help you build muscle is fairly well documented, and it’s common knowledge that weightlifting is one of the best ways to increase your muscle mass.

However, there’s still a lot of confusion regarding when you should actually drink the protein shake. Should you drink it before your workout? Right after? Or perhaps a mixture of both?

The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than you may think, but we’ll try our best to explain it for you.

A protein shake contains protein. Protein is an essential building block of your body, and it’s responsible for all sorts of complex functions like cell repair, neurotransmission and even muscle growth.

A protein shake usually contains multiple types of protein in addition to some sources of carbs and fats to help aid the digestion of the shake, as if taken alone, protein tends to be difficult to digest.

There are two studies that are regularly cited about the timing of taking a protein shake.

The first, as published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, found that taking a protein shake a half-hour before resistance training does not increase your strength performance.

How Many Shakes Do You Need in a Day?

In order to answer this question, let’s take a look at how to consume the recommended amount of protein for an “average” male or female.

In order to lose weight, most nutritionists recommend that you take in about 30% of your daily calories from protein. The recommended amount is based on your lean body mass, which, for the average person, is roughly 0.8 grams per kilogram (0.36 g/lbs).

If you weigh about 80kg (177 lbs.), then your protein intake should come out to roughly 45 grams per day.

Is it possible for you to get that much protein in one sitting? The short answer is yes, you can. However, it would be very difficult to do without slamming down large quantities of protein shakes.

Let’s assume that you’d like to spread that protein out throughout the day for a couple of different reasons. The first is to make it easier for your body to digest.

Consuming 45g of protein all at once in the form of a shake is a force your body is not used to. You can counter this somewhat by consuming some fiber, such as in an apple or a small salad, but even that will be a lot to take in.

So When Should You be Taking Your Shake?

You might have noticed that a lot of the most popular protein shakes on the market are designed to be consumed before or after a workout. You may also have noticed that some proteins, like Pea Protein Isolate and Brown Rice Protein, aren’t really compatible with shakes designed to be consumed after the workout as they don’t mix as well as whey.

While it’s up to you whether you prefer to mix your proteins before or after the gym, we’re here to give you a little more advice on how to make the most out of your protein powder. It’s All About Timing The big question is, when should you be mixing your protein shake?

Well, it really just comes down to your own preference. But there are a few things to consider when putting together your protein shake.

Let’s start with the pre-workout protein shake. During this phase, blood sugar levels will be higher as a result of any pre-workout nutrition you’ve already consumed. You’ll see similar levels of insulin as well, although don’t be too concerned about following the insulin levels too closely as a lot of the protein will be broken down during the workout.