There will be no shortage of fitness enthusiasts drinking a protein shake before or after their workout if you look around any gym these days.
So, do protein shakes help you meet your fitness and nutrition goals? A protein shake is unquestionably one of the most effective supplements available.
It’s quite easy to utilize, and there’s a lot of scientific evidence to back up how crucial protein is. Most individuals, however, are still uncertain whether they should drink their protein shake before or after their workout. This article will explain how protein shakes work and consume them to achieve your fitness objectives.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is one of the world’s most nutrient-dense supplements. Whey is high in protein, but it’s also high in amino acids like leucine, which play a key role in keeping your anabolic and growing muscle. Whey concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate is the three forms of whey available. They all differ somewhat from one another, owing to the degree of processing done to the actual protein.
Because the separation of fats and carbs in whey concentrate is less than in any other form, it is frequently the cheapest option. To make a more protein-rich whey, whey isolate goes through a lot more filtering. Whey hydrolysate (WPH) employs a process known as hydrolysis to further break down whey protein particles to their purest state. If you’ve ever had a “bubble gut” from drinking protein, the WPH is the way to go because it practically pre-digests the protein for you through its filtration.
Should You Drink A Protein Shake Before Or After Your Workout?
Whey protein is a rapidly absorbed protein with high bioavailability. This makes it an excellent post-workout recovery protein.
“Whey has the highest bioavailability of all the protein analogues, which makes it the most effective and rapidly used agent post-workout,” says Brandon Mentone, a Strength and Conditioning Coach, and Sports Nutritionist. When you exercise, you put your body under a lot of stress, which causes damage to your muscles and tissue.
Your workout is the instrument you employ to put your body in the right state for muscular hypertrophy during recovery, not the process of building muscle. After an exercise, proper nutrition increases tissue repair, which leads to muscular development.
Blood flow to skeletal muscles is boosted immediately after a workout, and the act of working out “opens up” muscles to behave like a sponge, primed and ready to absorb nutrients. When you consume a fast-absorbing protein like whey protein right after your workout, you’re giving your muscles the amino acids they need to repair and develop at the optimal time.
It’s best if you can drink whey protein as soon as possible after your workout. In general, you have up to two hours (the “anabolic window“) after an exercise to have a protein-carbohydrate meal. This is the two-hour window during which your muscles are prepared and ready to receive nutrients, transitioning from a muscle-wasting negative nitrogen balance to a muscle-building positive nitrogen balance.
However, just because you have up to two hours to supplement does not mean you should. The longer you wait, the less “sponge-like” your muscles will become, and the less benefit you’ll get from whey protein supplementation.
Most persons with body composition objectives will benefit from a protein intake of 1.8 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. You must decide if you need to be in a calorie surplus to gain muscle or a calorie deficit to reduce fat in this situation.
Who Should Take Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a wonderful alternative for most active people who want to easily improve their protein intake because it’s economical, popular, and highly bioavailable. One of the most common arguments against protein supplementation is that, in principle, it should be simple for individuals to get enough protein in their meals to fulfill the RDA of 8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
While theoretically correct, the RDA is based on the protein requirements of a sedentary person, not those of somebody active, developing, attempting to gain muscle mass, or recuperating from an injury.
Most studies show that a protein consumption of 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight is appropriate in situations like these. While getting this amount of protein via food is entirely doable, it isn’t always practical.
Anyone who has attempted to fit in a workout before rushing to a meeting or whose training schedule overlaps with their children’s bedtimes knows that eating a meal soon after working out isn’t always doable. Protein ingestion after an exercise is critical for muscle development and recuperation; thus it must be simple and quick to eat.
Protein supplements, especially whey protein powders that can be blended with water, bars, and pre-made drinks, are a fantastic alternative for anybody who is “on the move” and unable to turn to whole food protein sources after a workout.
However, it’s crucial to remember that whey protein isn’t for everyone. It’s not a suitable choice for vegans because it’s made from milk, and some whey protein concentrates might cause gastrointestinal upset in lactose intolerant people. Other protein supplements, such as vegan-friendly, stomach-friendly hemp protein, maybe a preferable alternative in certain instances.
Pre-workout Protein Shakes
You put your body under-regulated stress when you workout. When it comes to resistance training, the aim is usually to gain lean muscle mass or decrease body fat while keeping the muscle mass you already have. The extent to which a person wishes to push their body varies from person to person, but muscular growth is the end aim in some manner.
Protein should ideally be in your system a couple of hours before you workout. The rationale for this is that it allows for a circulating pool of amino acids, which can aid in muscle protein synthesis (MPS). This is 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.
A huge steak may take many hours to digest, but amino acids from a whey protein drink may be accessible within an hour. As a result, drinking a protein shake before a workout may help you achieve your goals.
What Happens If I Eat a Protein Shake Before a Workout?
If you don’t like doing out on an empty stomach but don’t want to fast, drinking a smoothie before your workout can be a suitable option. Pre-workout smoothies are a practical method to absorb protein an hour before a workout without feeling bloated or full.
Another fantastic reason to drink a protein shake before a workout is if you work out early in the morning or rush off during your lunch break and don’t have time to eat. The amino acids in a pre-workout protein shake will be accessible in your bloodstream throughout and immediately after your workout, assisting your body in building and repairing lean muscle tissue.
Pros of Drinking a Protein Shake Before Your Workout
According to Spano, drinking a protein shake before a workout is a terrific method to speed up the muscle-building process if you haven’t eaten in three or four hours. “In this situation, it’s not so much the timing of pre-exercise as it is the fact that eating moderate-to-high-protein meals throughout the day is good for growing muscle,” she adds.
Protein might also help you feel fuller before your sweat session if you’re starting to feel peckish. According to Spano, a protein drink before a workout can help you achieve your daily protein requirements.
Cons of Drinking a Protein Shake Before Your Workout?
If you have a sensitive stomach and can’t digest protein powder well, you should try drinking a protein smoothie before a workout. “It might make you feel too full, or it might induce an upset stomach if you’re jumping or leaping,” Spano warns. If you’re prone to gastrointestinal difficulties and want to have a shake or smoothie before your workout, a hydrolyzed protein powder could be a better option. For simpler digestion and absorption, hydrolyzed protein powders have been broken down into smaller-chain amino acids (protein’s building blocks).
If you’re curious about the best carb-to-protein ratio for your pre-workout smoothie, Spano believes there isn’t one. Some persons might not require any carbohydrates before their workout if they had carbohydrates within a few hours of exercising.
“However, if a person hasn’t eaten enough carbs throughout the day before working out, they may want to add some,” she adds. “Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy during moderate to high-intensity activities, such as lifting weights.”
Post-workout protein shakes
The “anabolic window” is a word used frequently in bodybuilding and fitness circles. Anabolic means ‘to build up’ (in this case, muscle); therefore, this is a hypothetical 30-minute window after weight exercise when you can put on the most muscle if you get your protein in.
If this were true, most of us would carry our chicken cartons to the gym, so why not use a protein shake instead? The good news is that there is no such thing as an anabolic window, but it doesn’t mean that supplementing with a protein shake after a workout isn’t beneficial to your goals.
A difficult training session is quite demanding on the body, and what your body needs afterward is some high-quality protein to assist rebuild and heal the damage that has been done. As a result, a quick-acting protein drink might be beneficial to your body’s recuperation.
What Happens If I Eat a Protein Shake After a Workout?
Protein smoothies can have a high bio-availability depending on the source. This indicates that the protein is better used in the body than protein obtained from a different source, such as a solid meal.
If you mix your post-workout smoothie with a lot of water or milk, you’ll be refilling your body’s water supply, which is necessary for muscle growth and recuperation.
There’s also the benefit of convenience. You often have to rush into meetings or go home from work after training. A post-workout protein smoothie is a terrific, simple choice if you don’t feel like lugging containers of food to the gym.
Pros of Drinking a Protein Shake After Your Workout?
The earlier you ingest protein after your workout, the sooner your muscles will begin to heal. “30 minutes to two hours after doing out is the optimal time to ingest protein,” Cabrera explains. “The protein will help to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that your workout has damaged.”
Protein smoothies are also a smart choice for a fast post-workout snack since they are simpler to digest than a full meal, which you may not have the appetite for (or the time to prepare) after working out, according to Cabrera. Furthermore, having a protein shake after a workout might aid in the replenishment of lost fluids due to perspiration.
Cons of Drinking a Protein Shake After Your Workout?
There are no disadvantages to drinking a protein shake after your workout, and doing so will help you recover faster. Spano occasionally advises athletes to acquire a protein drink immediately because they may forget to eat or not feel hungry for several hours.
However, the sort of protein powder you use in your smoothie has a significant impact. “I prefer milk proteins like whey, casein, and milk protein concentrate and isolate over other proteins on the market because they’re high-quality (the amino acids are bioavailable), complete proteins with all nine necessary amino acids the body requires,” Spano explains. (By the way, bioavailability refers to how well your body may absorb a vitamin.)
According to Cabrera, the ideal carb-to-protein ratio after an exercise is 3:1. This helps you to refill your glycogen stores (energy) and supplies the required protein for muscle repair and development before your next activity. (See also: Your Pre- and Post-Workout Supplements Guide)
How to Meet Your Daily Protein Intake?
Regardless of whether they conducted an hour of strength training or 30 minutes of yoga, people should consume protein every three to five hours throughout the day. However, people who are more active and engage in more strenuous activities require more protein than the ordinary person.
“Heavy lifters require total protein throughout the day; thus, they may want a protein meal sooner after lifting than someone doing yoga who does not require as much protein. Fitting in protein portions becomes a matter of time, “Spano says. “Heavy lifters will require more protein per meal, as well as more portions.
This is determined by their total daily protein requirements, which are calculated based on their current body weight or ideal body weight.” (According to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing, the basic guideline is that you should ingest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day.)
Suppose your aim is hypertrophy, for example. In that case, studies suggest that extra protein is required for muscle development and repair following hard lifting: The recommended daily protein intake for building muscle growth is 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to a 2017 systematic study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which looked at over 1,800 participants and their strength-training objectives. Anything above that number isn’t going to help you gain bulk or strength.
How many grams of protein do you consume on a daily basis? For example, if you weigh 135 pounds, you would divide that by 2.2 to convert it to kilograms. After that, you’d multiply the result by 1.6. Consequently, for optimal muscle-building outcomes, you’ll need to ingest 98 grams of protein every day.
A calorie deficit combined with greater protein consumption, on the other hand, is perfect for building lean muscle and losing fat, according to Spano. “If someone wants to reduce fat and gain muscle mass, they’re decreasing calories, which means they’ll need even more protein (to prevent muscle breakdown), maybe up to 2.4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day or more,” she explains. (For further information, see Your Complete Guide to Bulking.)
This is supported by science: A 2016 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a daily diet containing 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight was more effective in promoting fat loss and maintaining lean body mass than a lower protein intake of 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight when combined with resistance training and HIIT.
It makes little difference whether you drink a protein shake before or after a workout—or even if you drink one at all. What matters is that you take protein throughout the day and that you diversify your protein sources to ensure that your body receives the nutrients it needs to repair and strengthen your muscles. Including a range of lean protein sources, including chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, dairy, eggs, and beans in your diet, can help you meet your daily protein requirements. However, because getting enough protein can be challenging at times, putting protein powders in your shakes and smoothies is a wonderful method to make sure you get enough.
However, in a 2004 study published in the journal Metabolism, researchers chose to give patients protein before and after their exercise. What were the outcomes? Participants who received the protein grew 18 percent more type 1 and 26 percent more type 2 muscle fibers than those who did not get any protein. The protein group also exhibited improvements in several power tests, such as the vertical leap test.
So, what exactly does that imply? Protein supplementation before and after exercises is likely the best option for you since it promotes muscle building, fat reduction, and increased athletic performance.