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.
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.
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?
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.