Should You Drink a Protein Shake Before or After a Workout? How the Timing Impacts Muscle Growth

Should You Drink a Protein Shake Before or After a Workout? How the Timing Impacts Muscle Growth

A vigorous workout is taxing on the muscles, and the body needs fuel from your diet in order to allow your muscles to rebuild and grow. Protein, one of the three macronutrients (along with fat and carbohydrates), is the building block of the muscles, and without enough protein, you may not see the results you’re trying to achieve through your workouts. 

Anyone who takes the time to workout and is careful to take in enough protein wants to ensure that they are maximizing the benefit they receive from their protein shake, but should you drink a protein shake before or after a workout?

Why is protein important for workouts?

Protein is an important component of any diet. Each person needs protein in order to keep their body functioning properly, but athletes in particular have a special need for protein. 

Protein is responsible for helping to promote muscle repair and growth, so people who are doing any type of exercise that regularly breaks down their muscles (such as strength training, running, or any other form of vigorous exercise) need to ensure that they consume enough protein to support their body’s needs. 

Even though you might not think of yourself as an athlete, if you exercise regularly, then your body believes otherwise.

How much protein is recommended for people who work out?

There is a great deal of confusion that surrounds the amount of protein that people actually need in order to function properly. This is due in large part to concern over whether or not people eating plant-based diets can naturally obtain enough protein (they can) and a general belief that people need large amounts of protein in order to function. 

In fact, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. For a 150 pound person, that equates to 54 grams of protein per day. However, the Recommended Daily Allowance is the amount of protein that a person needs to ingest in order to avoid a protein deficiency. In other words, it’s the bare minimum. 

The Recommended Daily Allowance is not sufficient enough to support muscle recovery and growth, so it won’t work for people who are trying to build muscle and fuel their workouts. That means that people who workout regularly, especially those who strength train on a consistent basis, need to boost their protein intake.

Numerous studies have been conducted in order to determine the proper amount of protein needed to support muscle recovery and growth in people who exercise regularly. Studies indicate that people who strength train on a regular basis need about double the amount of protein prescribed by the Recommended Daily Allowance, or 0.72 grams per pound of body weight. For a 150 pound person, this equates to 109 grams of protein each day. 

The best way to optimize your protein intake for maximum results is to spread your protein intake out throughout the day over three to four meals. Many athletes find that drinking a protein shake around their workout is a great way to get in the extra protein that they may be missing at mealtime.

Should you drink a protein shake before or after a workout?

People who are taking the extra step of drinking a protein shake in order to ensure that they get enough protein to rebuild muscle and promote muscle growth naturally are interested in knowing the best time to drink a protein shake. 

One common belief is that the best time to drink a protein shake is within 30 minutes of exercise, which is commonly referred to as the “anabolic window.” The concept of the anabolic window promotes the idea that there is a short period of time in which the body and muscles can effectively synthesize protein, helping you to grow muscle and recover more efficiently. 

However, research suggests that the anabolic window is actually much longer than 30 minutes and may not be specific to your workout.

One study has been performed that compares the effects drinking a protein shake before and after a workout and how the timing impacts muscle growth. In this small study, one group of men received a protein shake before their workout and the other received a protein shake immediately after their workout, and each participant performed a full body strength training routine three times per week for 10 weeks. The result? There was no significant difference in muscle strength or size between the two groups. 

That means that as long as you drink a protein shake sometime around your workout, it won’t matter whether it is before you train or after. Whichever time is the most convenient for you will work. 

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

Now that you know that it doesn’t matter whether you consume protein before your workout or after, the question is: what is the best predictor of muscle size and strength? 

Some research suggests that consuming protein close to your workout isn’t actually all that important, while others show that it may be beneficial. However, if you’re the type of person who can’t bear the thought of consuming protein right before or right after a workout, there’s hope. A literature review of 23 different studies on the topic found that the biggest predictor of muscle strength and size is total protein intake throughout the day. 

In short, it is more important that you work on increasing your protein intake throughout the day than worry about timing your protein intake around your workout. Fortunately, there are lots of different ways to incorporate more protein into your diet without feeling like you need to eat steak for dinner every night.

What are the best ways to make sure you get enough protein?

Most people already know that eating meat, poultry, dairy, and fish offer high-quality sources of protein. However, for those who prefer not to consume meat, there are lots of plant-based protein options

In addition to consuming foods like meat, poultry, dairy, fish, nuts, beans, legumes, and soy, many people find that boosting their protein intake with a protein shake, protein powder, protein bar, or other protein-based products offers the protein boost they need to fuel their workouts. 

For example, Orgain’s Protein Pancake and Waffle Mix is a delicious way to start your morning with some plant-based protein. It’s made without soy ingredients, dairy ingredients, and lactose ingredients, and it’s even available in a gluten-free version

You might be surprised to discover all of the different ways that you can incorporate protein powder into the recipes you already eat, helping to boost your overall protein intake without dramatically changing your diet!



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