Of course we know that whole foods are best, but when we are in a hurry, are working extra hard at the gym or simply aren’t getting enough protein in our diet, then protein powders have their place. But when is the best time to have protein powder?
Extra protein in our diets becomes particularly important when we increase our exercise load and high performing athletes have been key when it comes to driving the market. Using protein powder to improve health is no longer in the domain of the athlete and in fact many of us in day to day lives can benefit from supplementing our protein in a regular fashion.
Protein powder before a workout
There are a couple of times that might be considered the best time to take a protein powder before your workout. One is at the start of your day, right after you first wake up. We know from research that your body is in a fasting state after sleeping all night. At this point your protein stores have been consumed and should be right on the edge of moving into a muscle wasting condition. This is why you need a fast-acting protein such as whey to counter this affect. The fast absorption of the protein in your morning shake will interrupt this cycle and bring your body back in balance.
Protein shakes just prior to your workout have a similar line of thinking, just for an almost opposite reason. Because you will be using up your body’s protein resources during your workout you want to take a slow-acting protein shake, such as you would get in a soy shake. It will slowly work with your body to keep your resources balanced throughout your workout. This will improve your outcome whether you are taking it for muscle building or to help recover from illness or accident.
The best time to have protein powder shakes post-workout
In the same way that there are two best times for a pre-workout shake, there are two different times to take your protein shake after you have done your workout. The reasons behind them are also very similar to the best time to take protein powder before a workout. It all has to do with how your body breaks down protein.
Right after you have done a good workout your body needs protein and it will often take it from longer lasting ones already in your body. But since you want to keep those for those long hours when you are sleeping, taking a fast-acting shake as soon as you have worked out gives it the protein it craves and saves the long lasting protein for later. These longer lasting proteins can be supplemented with an additional protein shake an hour or two before bedtime to help with muscle repair. Many users prefer to take casein protein shakes at night because of their long steady release of protein while you sleep.
Timing your protein intake is essential
As you can see finding the best time to take protein powder shakes can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your routine. This is why it is so important to plan out those shakes and take the right kind at the right time. One big exception to this is if you need to control your blood sugar levels. For anyone who has this added complication to their routine it is best to stick with the protein shakes that allow a slow delivery of proteins to the system. These will prevent excessive highs and lows in blood sugar content and keep you on a healthy even balance.
Brad Jon Schoenfeld, Alan Albert Aragon and James W Krieger. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:53
Genton, Laurence; Melzer, Katarina; Pichard, Claude (2010). “Energy and macronutrient requirements for physical fitness in exercising subjects”. Clinical Nutrition 29 (4): 413-423.