If you’re into health and fitness, you likely know that protein is extremely important when it comes to growing your muscle, and also repairing muscle. However, it can be difficult to get the necessary protein hit from wholefood sources alone, which is why many people use protein supplements – like protein shakes – to hit their daily protein goals. When’s the best time to drink a protein shake to get the best results? Interestingly, it’s quite a well-debated issue. Some people suggest drinking a protein shake before a workout is ideal, while others say it should be post-workout. Here’s what science says.
How Much Protein Should You Consume Per Day?
This is the recommended amount so a person doesn’t become protein deficient, meaning, someone who trains a lot and lifts weights will need more than that to support muscle recovery and growth. To consume the necessary protein through food alone would probably be too much for some people, which is why a protein shake is a popular option between meals as a snack or to be consumed around the time of your workout. It typically contains a decent 25-30 grams of protein per scoop.
What is the “Anabolic Window” and Does it Matter?
Nutrient timing is a popular nutritional strategy that involves the consumption of combinations of nutrients–primarily protein and carbohydrate–in and around an exercise session. The nutrient timing (AKA anabolic window) is another hotly debated topic. Research used to suggest drinking a protein shake within 30 minutes of exercise ultimately maximises results in the gym. It’s the short period of time in which your muscles will absorb protein the best (basically your muscles at this point are ‘hungry’ for protein). Previous research used to suggest if you consume protein outside of this anabolic window your body wouldn’t effectively build muscle. However, newer research suggests the anabolic window is longer than 30 minutes and may not be limited to just after exercise.
Is Drinking a Protein Shake Pre- or Post-Workout Best?
A study completed in 2017 suggests pre- versus post-exercise protein intake actually has similar effects on muscular adaptations. These results suggest that as long as you consume protein around the time of your workout, it doesn’t matter if it’s before or after you train. However, there is other research out there that questions whether consuming protein around your workout is even necessary or has any effect on maximising muscle gains.
Another study found that the biggest aid in muscle growth is actually the total protein a person consumes within a day, and it didn’t matter when that protein was taken.
Long story short: when combining the results of both these separate studies, it can be assumed that when you drink your protein shake doesn’t have any major effect on muscle growth and recovery, but it is also clear further research needs to be done.
High Sources of Protein
So, what are the best sources of protein to hit your daily protein goals? Typically, animal products contain the highest amounts of protein per serve (think meat, poultry, dairy and fish). However, for those who are vegetarian, or vegan, beans, legumes and soy are also excellent sources of protein. In terms of protein powder, there are animal-product-based protein powders, and plant-based protein powders (here’s a list of 10 of the best plant-based protein powders). Protein powders are typically broken down into different types, including whey protein (milk-based), casein protein (another milk protein), egg protein (pure egg-white), soy protein (plant-based), and rice and pea protein (ideal for those with egg or soy allergies and completely vegan).
The Final Answer
At the end of the day, the latest research appears to say this: it doesn’t matter when you drink your protein shake, but rather the most important factor is consuming enough protein throughout the day, especially on workout days. Both food and supplements can help you meet your protein goals and aid in muscle repair and growth. So, eat and drink up your protein, folks!