So, is it better to have a protein shake before or after a workout? Well, the quick answer would be that it depends. Both can be a very important part of your muscle building routine.
Read on for some of the benefits to both pre- and post-workout shakes.
What Is A Protein Shake?
Protein shakes come in different forms. Many of them come as a powder that you mix with milk or a milk alternative, or simply water.
Reasons To Consider Drinking A Pre-Workout Protein Shake
If muscle growth is your goal, you should actually consider drinking shakes – or eating meals high in protein – several times during the day.1
There is science to back up this assertion. According to one study, consuming protein in small amounts throughout the day helps promote muscle protein synthesis. This is basically another way of saying that protein helps the body build muscle. About 30 grams of protein per meal seems to work better than ingesting all of your recommended protein intake (.8 grams per kilogram of body weight) in one sitting.2
Some believe that drinking a pre-workout protein shake is a good idea, especially if you haven’t had any food in a few hours. They believe it helps stimulate muscle growth. A pre-workout shake may also help keep you from getting hungry before your workout and help keep you from overeating once you’re done.3
There’s a chance drinking a protein shake right before a workout will cause you to feel too full. If this is the case, try mixing some hydrolyzed protein with water or milk. This type of protein has already been broken down into amino acids, making it easier to digest.4
If You Want to Drink A Post-Workout Protein Shake
You might find that a post-workout shake is more to your liking – which is just fine as well. There are also some benefits to taking this approach.
As you work out, your body breaks down protein. It also uses the carbs it’s stored. This may lower your levels of glycogen, or the fuel you need for energy. Waiting until after your workout to have a shake may help with fuel replenishment and muscle recovery. It might also help you restore fluids you’ve lost through sweat.5
The train of thought used to be that people only had a certain amount of time – about an hour – after a workout in order to get the most out of a shake. But it appears that’s not the case at all. Getting the right amount of protein throughout the day is more important than trying to fit your protein intake into a certain window of time.6
Some experts believe the best window is a few hours after exercising, because they say this is when the body does the best job of processing protein and using it for muscle recovery and growth. Others believe that window could be as large as 24 hours.7
What To Include In Your Post-Workout Protein Shake
You’ll see a lot of advertisements for protein powders, and you’ll probably also notice they contain a huge range of different ingredients. Here’s what the science says about some of the ingredients you’ll see if you do some research into these products.
- Pea protein – If you’re trying to lose weight, a shake made from pea protein may be a good option. Pea protein has been shown to help reduce feelings of hunger.8
- Whey protein – Whey protein contains amino acids the body can quickly absorb. This not only supports muscle growth, but it could also help your weight loss program.9
- Casein protein – Also known as calcium caseinate protein, casein protein breaks down more slowly in the body. This can help ensure you have a steady supply of energy throughout the day.10
Note: When searching for a quality protein shake, always look at the ingredients. You’ll want to avoid shakes with added sugar, artificial sweeteners or flavors, and other dangerous additives. If you aren’t sure which protein shake is right for you, ask your doctor for a recommendation.
Why Is Protein Important For Workouts?
Protein is an extremely important source of nutrition. It helps support everything from glycogen levels to muscle recovery.11 If you’re an active person, regular protein intake will be key to helping you get the most out of your exercise routine.
How Much Protein Is Recommended For People Who Work Out?
If you exercise a lot – activities such as running, weightlifting, cycling, or other strenuous forms of working out – you actually need more protein than someone who isn’t as active. The reason is that you have more of a need to repair muscle tissue. You should basically strive to get anywhere between 1.2 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.12
Translated into pounds, that means you should get between .5-.9 grams of protein for each pound you weigh.13 If you weigh 150 pounds, that means you should try to shoot for between 75-135 grams a day. For reference, one cup of low-fat (1%) milk contains 8.3 grams of protein.14
However, everyone’s body is different and requires unique needs. Talk to your doctor about how much protein is right for you.
Is Too Much Protein Bad For You?
The old adage, “too much of a good thing is definitely a bad thing” applies to protein intake. If you constantly get too much, that could put stress on your kidneys.15 You’ll also want to keep tabs on what you’re eating alongside your protein choices. Lean meats offer plenty of protein – but don’t pair them with high-carb, high-fat foods – that could lead to weight gain.16
Have a Talk With Your Doctor
Again, if you aren’t sure how much protein, or what type of protein is right for you, just speak with your doctor. They can assess your current situation and give you the best recommendation. Also, don’t do anything to dramatically change your protein intake without talking to a doctor first. You want to make sure it will be safe to do so.