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man making a protein shake putting protein powder into shaker bottle

Should You Have Your Protein Shake Before Or After A Workout?

May 03, 2023 2 Comments

Man holding heavy barbell overhead in low squat position.
Justin Marini

The Ready State 101 movement & mobility specialist

So, you just crushed a workout and it's time to get some nutrients in to replenish your body. A protein shake might be your go-to, but you remember you have errands to run and you wont be home to make it for another few hours.

Is it even worth it to have the protein shake if it wasn't right after your workout? Would it have been more beneficial for you to have the protein shake prior to your work out? If you exercise regularly, these are probably questions you've asked yourself protein before or after workout.

Table of Contents

How Protein Shakes Work

As you exercise, your muscles fibers tear microscopically, leaving you feeling sore afterward. This completely natural process helps your muscles grow stronger as a result. However, to ensure your body has the right building blocks to repair muscle fibers, you need the right fuel.

Proteins are the main building blocks of muscles. If you don't get enough protein, you're unlikely to get the results you want from exercise.

The primary component in protein shakes is amino acids, which are protein's building blocks. Amino acids play a significant role in almost every body function, including muscle repair, nutrient absorption, and protein synthesis. They also help maintain muscle mass during weight loss and improve overall body functions. Furthermore, there are essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. Complete proteins are found in foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, meat and dairy. This is why protein supplements from whey protein and casein protein are so popular.

man lifting dumbbell off weight rack at gym

Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is a biochemical process in muscle cells that allows muscles to recuperate, strengthen, and grow after physical activity. But, the gains are only visible when MPS outnumbers the counter process of muscle protein breakdown (MPB).

Our muscles are constantly undergoing both processes. When we eat protein, our MPS levels rise, and when MPS levels surpass MPB levels, we have a "positive protein balance," resulting in muscle growth. When fasting, MPB rates rise, and if they exceed MPS rates, this is referred to as a "negative protein balance," leading to muscle breakdown. According to various scientific studies, both processes must coexist to ensure muscle development and proper adaptation to exercise.

In more digestible terms (no pun intended) it is advantageous to in a state of protein synthesis throughout the day if your goal is to gain muscle. This means consuming protein in meals or shake form before and after a workout. If your goal is to lose weight but maintain muscle mass then, you still need to be synthesizing protein often and reducing your caloric intake in other areas. If your goal is to just lose weight and not worry about muscle mass (something I do not recommend) then, just reduce your overall caloric intake.

Why Timing Matters For Protein Powder

Protein powder consumption relies on your health and fitness objectives, as well as your routine and preferences. Generally, the body digests some types of protein faster than others. As a result, the form of protein and the timing of ingestion are interrelated.

For instance, micellar casein is a slow-digesting protein that is great for people who drink a protein shake before bed (Kinsey, Amber W., et al. 2016). On the other hand, whey proteins are often fast-absorbing, making them an excellent post-workout alternative (Beaufrere et al, 2000). Thus, the time you take your protein impacts both the type of protein that is best for you and how successful your protein powder is at helping you achieve your individual goals.

When To Take Protein Powder

protein shake before vs after workout

I'm sure you've heard people go on and on about this, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to keep it simple. Most people can get the results they're looking for by consuming 1 gram of protein per pound in lean body mass within a 24-hour period. If you are trying to gain muscle, this will be plenty of protein to rebuild your muscle tissue after a workout. If you are trying to lose fat, this will probably leave you satiated enough to not raid your snack cabinet before bed.

Despite what you might have heard, the evidence for the anabolic window isn't exactly clear. It is however helpful to have some nutrients in the body going into a workout (Barr, Dave. 2014)

Protein Shake Before Workout: Pros and Cons

The primary goal of any exercise routine typically revolves around muscle growth. That's why protein should be in your system a couple of hours before your workout. The amino acids in your body will help in muscle protein synthesis (MPS), serving as a signal to the body that it needs to build muscle and heal.

Protein digestion rates vary depending on the type of food you consume. For some, it may take a long time for a large portion of protein to digest, while for others, amino acids from whey protein shake may be accessible within an hour. Drinking a protein shake at least an hour before a workout can benefit your workout routine.

However, if you do not prefer exercising in a fed state, it is best to consider post-workout protein shakes. Likewise, if your workout routine involves plenty of running, jumping, or bounding, taking a pre-workout protein shake may result in an upset stomach. However, if you are worried about muscle loss due to working out in a fasted state, it might be beneficial to consume protein from a casein protein shake several hours before your workout to ensure your body is synthesizing some protein while you are working out.

Protein Shake After Workout: Pros and Cons

There is a common myth that the earlier you ingest protein after an exercise routine, the faster the muscle recovery process. You may have heard people say you must take a post-workout protein shake at least 30 minutes to two hours after your workout or it's essentially ineffective.

It's true that protein shakes are an excellent option for an instant post-workout treat. Protein shakes are usually easier to digest than a full meal, and you might not have the appetite or time to make a meal after working out.

It is also easy to forget to drink protein or take a post-workout protein shake. Many athletes do not feel hungry until after several hours after exercise.

man drinking protein shake after workout

How Much Protein Do I Need?

This calculator is helpful at answering that question based on a few simple questions, check it out.

 

Including Protein Shakes In Your Diet

There is a common myth that the earlier you ingest protein after an exercise routine, the faster the muscle recovery process. You may have heard people say you must take a post-workout protein shake at least 30 minutes to two hours after your workout or it's essentially ineffective.

It's true that protein shakes are an excellent option for an instant post-workout treat. Protein shakes are usually easier to digest than a full meal, and you might not have the appetite or time to make a meal after working out.

It is also easy to forget to drink protein or take a post-workout protein shake. Many athletes do not feel hungry until after several hours after exercise.

References

Kinsey, Amber W., et al. "The effect of casein protein prior to sleep on fat metabolism in obese men." Nutrients 8.8 (2016): 452.

Beaufrere, B. E. R. N. A. R. D., M. A. R. T. I. A. L. Dangin, and Yves Boirie. "The ‘fast’and ‘slow’protein concept." Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Clin Perform Programme. Vol. 3. 2000.

Barr, Dave. "Top 10 post-workout myths..."




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2 Responses

Taylor Ford
Taylor Ford

April 21, 2022

Thanks Hector, please let me know if there are any other topics or articles you’d like us to explore for you!

Hector Murguia
Hector Murguia

April 20, 2022

👍

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