Protein Shake Before or After Workout?

Protein Shake Before or After Workout

by The Fitness Enthusiast on April 3, 2014

Protein Shake Before or After Workout? When To Take Protein Shakes

Ever walk into a supplement store, and think to yourself….Huh? All these supplements, all these colors, all these ridiculous claims, and overly scientific crap, all you wanted was some protein, right? Not an infomercial. You don’t know when to take any of these protein shakes, I mean, should you take a protein shake before or after you workout? Is it worth the 50 dollar price tag?

You’re not the only one.

A very common question that I am frequently asked is what kind of protein should I be taking? Should I drink a protein shake before or after my workout? Do I NEED protein after a workout? Do I need protein in general? Why?

If this is a question you find yourself asking every time you take a trip to the nutrition store, don’t worry, I got you covered.

When to Take Protein Shakes Tip #1: There are many forms of protein

There are a few different forms of whey protein and often times advertising for these products can be quite misleading.  To keep things simple we will break whey protein down into three categories; isolate, concentrate, and caseinate.  Well, what is the difference between the three? The main difference and most important one to know is the time it takes for the body to digest.  Isolates digest at the quickest pace and therefore should be used as your post-workout source of protein.  After a lift you have a 30-45 minute “anabolic window” in which you must digest your protein so the body can use it for proper recovery.  It is essential to deliver protein and amino acids into the muscle after your workout.  There are many 100% whey isolates out there that would definitely get the job done.  There are also new products that consist of “hydrolyzed whey isolates”.  This is a predigested form of a whey isolate and is actually soluble through the lining of the stomach and travels directly to the blood and into the muscle.  A hydrolyzed isolate may be ideal, but a 100% isolate protein will do the job.

When To take protein shakes

When to take protein shakes

What about Whey Concentrate or Casein in my Protein Shake Before or After my Workout? Tip #2

Products that contain Whey concentrate are good sources of protein, but take longer to fully digest and therefore are not the absolute best for post-workout protein intake. The best use of a whey concentrate would be as a meal additive or meal replacement, i.e. a snack.   If you absolutely do not have time to prepare and eat something like a chicken breast or steak then drinking a whey concentrate shake is an okay option, but certainly not optimal.  The third category of whey proteins mentioned is whey caseinate. Casein proteins are derived from dairy and take a very long time to digest, sometimes up to 8 full hours. Therefore the time in which it takes to digest caseinate makes it an optimal pre-bedtime meal because it releases protein into your system as you sleep and thus prevents catabolism (breakfast would be a good time for casein as well).  Catabolism, or being in a catabolic state simply means that you are losing muscle rather than gaining, which is something no one desires.  So the next time you head over to the nutrition store to pick up some protein, and you are wondering what type of protein shake you should drink before or after your workout remember this guide on when to take protein shakes, and the process should be much easier.

Although, there is buzz regarding a 50/50 mix of whey and casein protein post workout; I am not so sure about this as the casein might slow down the absorption of the whey and there aren’t many legitimate studies on this. Rather, why not take only whey post workout, and down a casein shake 90 minutes or so later? Again, from an anabolic perspective I think taking only whey post workout makes the most sense considering your body wants a flood of amino acids after working out to prevent catabolism, you can follow that up by consuming some casein an hour or two later, and before bed.

*Disclaimer: Regardless of type of protein shake you whip up to drink before or after your workout: know what you are buying. Take supplements at your own risk. Protein shakes can never replace whole food chicken, beef, fish, etc.. Remember, supplements are just there to supplement, i.e. something that is added to make up for a deficiency.

Protein Shake Before or After Workout

Should I drink a Protein Shake Before or After I Workout?

How many grams of protein per pound of body weight?

Generally speaking, 1 Gram of protein per pound of body weight is what you should aim for everyday, but I would go for 1.25 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Also, the more you decrease your fat and carb intake, the higher your protein intake should be. Excess calories from protein are unlikely to be stored the same as carbs and fat, and although 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight sounds like a bit much you need to vary your protein intake based off your glucose tolerance and your energy expenditure because the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts will factor into how much and when you should consume protein. I mean, are you the type of person who can eat a bunch of carbs with minimal fat gain? Do you workout 2x a day? Adjust accordingly.

What about my post workout protein intake? How much protein should I take after my workout?

Bonus Tip*

My general recommendation for post workout protein intake directly after lifting weights is 25-50 grams of whey for males, and 20-30 grams of whey for females with some simple carbohydrates. You would then eat a combination of protein and carbs 2, 4, and even 6 hours post workout (entirely different subject to be addressed). Minimum you would want to consume some whey protein post workout, but of course I always preach going above and beyond. This is just the beginning of a series of articles that will cover all the insanely interesting and mouth watering topics about protein.

Again, these numbers will vary widely depending on a numerous amount of factors. This is just a general recommendation after a strenuous lifting session, and is by no means the end all be all answer. Everyone is different and as such would be trained and treated differently in terms of post workout protein intake, and recovery protocol.

The biggest mistake you can make is to not care about protein. I am an advocate of the whole food approach, and a protein shake before or after your workout, at breakfast time or before bed is just a supplement and a part of a much bigger picture. With that said, making sure you are eating enough protein is pivotal and DEFINITELY beneficial in burning fat and maintaining muscle.

*Post workout protein intake will be bundled with my post workout recovery and nutrition article to come in the future. This is an entirely different subject that people write books on, and as such it deserves its own article.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Jazmine January 23, 2012 at 4:11 am

Good Evening,

Bolthouse Farms makes this delicious Protein Plus Parfait Smoothie that contains 25g of protein and I wanted to try it. It tastes great but I want to start using it for workouts. 1. Is that a good idea? I know there are better things out there that I could be using but I really really like the taste of this one. And for women, that don’t want to bulk up, should I drink it before or after a workout? I’m looking for this answer on the internet but I haven’t found an answer yet.

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast January 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Hi Jazmine,

My preferred post workout nutrition consists of whey protein. Jazmine, my wife has been lifting with me for months and has only gotten smaller (size 8 to size 2). However this is a result of her eating an all natural, high fiber, high protein diet, while being in a calorie deficit and working out (mostly lifting and circuit conditioning) consistently. I take my protein post workout, eat all natural, and remain in a calorie deficit to lose weight, its that simple.

We wish the best for you, God Bless.

TFE

Reply

Elaihna March 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Hey! I tried the same thing and was online asking the same question!! Is it actually good enough to be considered a post-workout drink?

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast March 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for the comment. I love Optimum Nutrition whey protein for post workout, particularly the double chocolate flavor, however this is just me. :)

TFE

Reply

anon March 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm

hey im 16 and i would like to start working out, im not sure if protein shakes are a good idea and if its really worth it, i have a high metabolic rate but im not to conscious about what kind of food i eat at school, i understand its a bit general but if anyone has any opinions in what i should do then fire away!! ty guys

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast March 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

It is far to difficult for these type of questions to be answered over the computer. I would suggest getting connected with an individual that is a qualified healthcare provider in your local area who is a knowledgeable source of health and nutrition. I stress that this person must have proven success and experience. He or she would be better able to assess your current state of health and properly guide you along this weight loss journey far better than I can over the computer.

In my case, I learned from people who knew more than me (and still do), also I took to reading, but more so, acting on what I read and so I hold an abundance of practical knowledge related to my personal progress and I try to apply that to a broader audience, however every one is different and you must develop via your own experiences and desire to become healthier. This is why so much of what I write is rooted in motivation, because getting up is half the battle. I would suggest continually trying to learn more and more about health and nutrition and one day you could potentially be your best trainer…

Thanks

TFE

Reply

Brennan March 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm

thank you so much, I wasn’t sure on whether or not it would be more beneficial to have it before or after.

Reply

Sarah March 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

How do you feel about plant protein vs. whey? I’m currently taking one called Total Vegan by Numedica. It contains pea and rice protein, which they say is comparable to whey, but I’m unsure of the absorption rates. I’m no vegetarian by any means, I love my chicken and steak just as much as the next person, but achieving physiological balance and nutrition are important to me, and lately I’ve read a lot of adverse things about gluten. Thank you for any advice in advance!

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast April 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm

My post workout nutrition is whey protein. I have no experience using plant protein but I know successful fitness enthusiasts who avoid any and all types of protein shakes and simply eat well balanced high protein all natural snacks & meals while manipulating their calories to reflect their goals…The key is to understand that protein is a supplement. Most people have very busy lives, so they can’t get 1 gram of protein per lb they weigh in each day so a protein shake post workout or some casein before bed really helps out, however all natural whole food is always superior to some powder or pill.

Thanks

TFE

Reply

siddhesh March 29, 2012 at 9:11 am

but what about other supplements?
when & how should they be consumed ?

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast April 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Siddhesh,

If you could provide a more specific question, maybe I could provide a more specific answer.

Thanks

TFE

Reply

lisa April 16, 2012 at 6:28 am

Thanks TFE for the informative post. I was literally wondering about that question. My problem is that I’m not a morning person and was literally wondering should I take a shake before or after. And when I stumbled to this page, I didn’t realize there are 3 types of protein.

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast April 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Hi Lisa,

Compared to some experts out there, I don’t know much, but I do my best when I write an article and I appreciate comments like this – very rewarding. It reminds me that staying humble and continuing to learn while spreading that knowledge can benefit others and that is the only goal – uplifting and benefiting others. Thank you for reading.

Best in health,

TFE

Reply

rachelle April 19, 2012 at 7:29 am

I work out when i get home from work around 1am and then i have a protein shake and then im only up for about 1 1/2 to 2 hrs then good to bed. Is having a protein shake after my workout but before bed good?

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast May 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Honestly, I think you are over thinking this. If you want to lose weight, be in a calorie deficit, get your protein and eat all natural. If you can’t hunt it or it doesn’t grow out the ground don’t eat it.

Reply

k April 20, 2012 at 3:37 am

For the most part, the only time I have to workout is at night only a couple of hours before I go to bed. I always have a low carb low fat protein shake after my workout, but am always worried that i’m taking in to much calories before bed. Am I worrying to much? Also, it is my understanding that the 30 minute window is a myth. That studies have shown that your body actually has a 24 hour anabolic window. Just wanted to see your thoughts on this.

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast May 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Count your calories.

Thanks

TFE

Reply

Elena April 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I’m a vegetarian. I’m attempting to build upper body strength since it is needed in the profession I’m going for, but I haven’t been able to succeed in moving up in weights and benching. I transitioned to a high protein diet, and I consume whey protein shakes after my workouts. I feel more strength, but it just doesn’t show in the gym. Should I take protein shakes before AND after my workouts? I’m afraid that might increase my weight and not necessarily help me out with building muscles. Help!? :(

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast May 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Elena,

I don’t know why you aren’t getting strong, as this is something I can’t answer online, however I do know that you should be counting your calories.

Count your calories.

Thanks

Reply

mitchell May 21, 2012 at 2:14 am

i’m working out real early about 6am when i use weight’s i have a good workout but when i’m not working which is only one day a week
i work out later and get a better workout about 7-30 am if i workout at 6am should i take a power drink with caffiene in it or just work out latter.

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast June 23, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Hey Mitchell,

Develop a routine that allows you to be consistent. I would try to workout the same time everyday as over time you will be more prepared for each subsequent workout….consistency is a building block! If you get a better workout at 730 am than what is holding you back? Just consistently workout at 730 am!! Now if it is a time crunch than it is a time crunch but in terms of using caffeine to jumpstart you…why? Its artificial energy buddy…if your body is saying no, not yet, why would you want to force it?

Remember, in health and fitness, one of the most important rules is this:

When it comes to your schedule, do your best to schedule what you will be able to consistently stick to…

Check your routine, find a different time that works better, make sure your diet isn’t negatively effecting your energy levels, so and so forth…

Best,

TFE

Reply

Mar June 2, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Hi,

I’m a newbie and just started drinking EAS AdvantEDGE Carb Control protein shake yesterday. I’m doing no-carbs detox for 2weeks, fyi. So anyway, I took it as a meal replacement before my workout. I didn’t bother doing research (err my bad) on its contents but after reading this article, I was studying the nutrition fact diligently and found out that it contains Soy Protein Isolate AND Whey Concentrate.

While Isolate is better for post-workout, Concentrate is recommended for a pre-workout. Now.. That’s where I got confused.

Help!

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast June 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Sup Mar,

Do your research before buying the product, you got to be a big label reader these days, these supplement companies don’t care about you, you got to care about what you put in your body. I don’t drink soy pre or post workout. I just stick with whey.

Best,

TFE

Reply

mannyt July 10, 2012 at 3:09 am

Hi,
I am a vegetarian (No meat, no sea food (so no chicken and steak for me)) Dairy is fine. I have protein whites (liquid) for breakfast along with milk. I am comparatively slimmer (thinner) according to BMI, I need to gain 20 lbs (I guess complete opposite of a problem then what most have). Could you suggest me what kind of protein shakes should I be trying and when. I need to increase protein intake.

Thanks

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast July 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm

FYI, Whey and Casein are derived from cow’s milk.

Please read the article again for my opinion on what kind of protein and when. Also, do not expect to simply drink some protein shakes and gain muscle and please don’t try to get all your protein just from some shake, whole food is the best source of protein! … I use a protein shake as a SUPPLEMENT to my nutrition, not the core of it.

A protein shake will not DICTATE your success or failure, it is simply a supplement to eating all natural whole foods, working out, and getting your sleep. Take to heart these 3 things:

1) Keep your Confidence
2) Be Consistent
3) Count your calories

TFE

Reply

Akshay July 20, 2012 at 11:01 am

I am using Protien X shake since 2 days , and i have been going to gym since 10 days. Is is good to use protien x shake. my weight is 60.

Reply

The Fitness Enthusiast July 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Hi,

1. What are you doing at the gym?
2. Are you trying to gain or lose weight?
3. What type of protein shake? I don’t know if X is a variable or if it is an actual brand. More important than a brand name is the type of protein…. whey, casein, etc….

please clarify your question.

TFE

Reply

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