You put in a lot of sweat and time at the gym, so you understandably want to ensure you’re maximizing muscle gain or weight loss with pre and post-workout nutrient consumption.
Therefore, it’s likely got you wondering when to drink protein shakes—is the best time before or after a workout?
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Whether you want to consume protein for muscle gain or shed some pounds, we’ll help you understand the nuances of this question.
Benefits of Protein Shakes Before a Morning Workout
Getting up in the morning and heading straight to the gym without eating anything could spark fat oxidation. That may sound great if you’re trying to lose weight, but we doubt you’ll feel the same after hearing this—your body may consume energy via your muscles since they don’t have any food to use.
So, it’s wise to drink a protein shake about 30 minutes before you work out. Whey protein is best since it’s fast-absorbing, offering your muscles greater protection from degradation during your workout.
That said, drinking a protein shake before a morning workout isn’t necessary for everyone. For example, some people doing cardio for under 90 minutes will be okay without protein or any other food in their stomach.
Furthermore, a study in 2017 showed that two groups of resistance-trained men who consumed protein either before or post-workout had about the same anabolic window for their muscular response to protein.
In lay people’s terms, that means eating protein after working out is just fine since it’ll give your body the protein it needed before you exercised.
Breaking the Myth of Pre-Workout Protein Shakes
Let’s assume you’re not a fan of morning workouts, so you’re wondering about taking protein powder before exercising later in the day. You likely already have food in you, some of which is hopefully from protein.
In that case, do you need a protein shake before working out?
If you believe old research that’s ingrained in people’s minds that protein shakes are most effective after workouts, you’d likely say no, you shouldn’t take protein shakes before working out.
However, going off that 2017 study, having a protein shake pre-workout will give you essentially the same benefits as drinking one post-workout. You don’t necessarily have to drink the protein shake shortly before exercising, either.
The study showed that you might reap the benefits of protein shakes by drinking them a few hours before exercising. That said, the type of protein you consume likely plays a role in its effectiveness.
Of course, new research could come in and derail these findings. But for now, it appears drinking a protein shake before or after workouts has basically the same muscle repair and building properties.
Benefits of Protein Shakes After a Workout
It’s a long-standing belief that it’s best to drink protein powder shakes after working out. And, despite the new research showing that protein shakes are effective pre-workouts, it doesn’t deny that post-workout shakes are an excellent option.
The reason being is that you tear muscles when exercising, especially when strength training or doing high-intensity exercise. So, your body needs the amino acids in protein shakes to repair your muscles. The result is a more toned-looking you when you flex in the mirror.
Protein isn’t only for muscle building, though. It also helps keep bones strong and supports hormone and enzyme formation.
Therefore, replenishing your body with a protein shake after working out will ensure your body doesn’t have to choose between how to use what may otherwise have been a limited number of amino acids.
The Best Protein to Consume Before Bed Post-Workout
If you’re interested in taking protein powder before bed, science shows that casein protein is the best choice. That’s because casein digests more slowly in the body compared to other proteins like whey.
As a result, scientists have found that casein causes an increase in plasma amino acids for around seven hours. So, if you frequently get hungry at night, drinking a casein protein shake before bed could be an excellent way to curb your appetite.
That said, a study conducted on resistance exercise performance and morning metabolism in women indicated that a combination of casein and whey protein powder “positively influenced” their metabolic rate. They didn’t come to a conclusion on exercise performance, though.
So, although casein releases more slowly in the body, it appears that whey powder may have positive effects as you sleep as well. Of course, you should ensure that the protein powder you consume doesn’t contain a lot of sugar. Otherwise, you could find yourself wide awake at night.
Other Protein Options
Although there are incomplete and complete proteins, the reality is that they all contribute to muscle building and staving off hunger. Two of the most common types of protein you’ll encounter when looking for a protein shake for your pre or post-workout are casein and whey powder.
Unlike casein, whey protein has a fast absorption time. In the same study about plasma amino acids in casein, researchers found that participants drinking whey protein had a rapid spike in plasma amino acids, which died off entirely after around three hours.
Nevertheless, vegans and people with dairy intolerances have access to several other protein powder choices for their workouts, including:
- Pea protein
- Hemp protein
- Brown rice protein
- Mixed plant protein
You can even give egg protein powder a try, which offers excellent protein digestibility. Furthermore, egg protein is a complete protein, providing the nine amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own.
Nevertheless, most vegan protein powders offer complete protein. However, it’s worth reading the label to verify that you’re getting all the essential amino acids you need so that you can have the best workout possible.
Do you still have questions about protein shakes and working out? We’ve rounded up answers to some of the most popular questions.
Is it a good idea to consume protein powder while working out?
Taking protein powder during a workout is an option, but it’s often best to take small sips of liquid when exercising to avoid stomach issues. In extreme cases, if you mix your protein powder with large amounts of water, you might even develop hyponatremia, a condition due to overhydration.
Should you drink protein shakes on rest days?
You can drink protein shakes on rest days, although it might not be necessary if you meet your daily recommended protein intake with food alone. Typically, your body needs extra protein around the time of physical activity to help restore torn muscle tissues. Nevertheless, drinking protein shakes on rest days certainly won’t hurt.
Does drinking a protein shake after a workout help with weight loss?
Studies show that protein reduces hunger and can help with weight control, so drinking a protein shake may help you lose weight since it’ll prevent you from overeating. Furthermore, some research suggests that protein may help increase metabolism due to a thermic effect.
When To Drink Protein Shakes: Conclusion
So, the verdict is that it doesn’t matter if you drink a protein shake before or after workouts. However, we’ll leave you with this final piece of advice—don’t consume all your protein in one sitting.
That’s because your body can only absorb around 20 – 25 grams of protein at a time. If you consume more than this, your body will likely oxidize it. So, it’s best to figure out how much protein you need a day and split it up into several protein-eating sessions.