The truth is that everyone can get all the protein they need for the normal functioning of their body, which is 46-56 grams per day (for sedentary people), from whole foods. The best sources of protein include eggs, dairy products, lean meats, fish and seafood. However, a person who exercises regularly needs to consume more overall calories, especially protein, and obtaining it solely from whole food sources can be challenging in certain situations. That gives protein shakes an important role in the diet of fitness-oriented folks.
Protein shakes help deliver an abundance of amino acids to the muscle cells, which supports the muscle protein synthesis and stimulates faster rebuilding of damaged muscle proteins, resulting with quicker recovery and maximized growth.
And without a steady flow of protein in the bloodstream, athletic progress in terms of growth and performance would be nearly impossible. The best approach, of course, is to get the bigger part of your protein intake from whole foods, and use protein shakes as an addition to your already protein-rich diet.
Scientific research has repeatedly shown us that protein supplementation works best when applied before and after the training session. But when we take into consideration the different types of training, goals and diets of different athletes, that simple rule doesn’t apply so neatly for every case.
In this article we’ll provide you with a basic guideline for adjusting protein supplementation to your specific set of needs and goals so that you can optimize your growth and recovery.
The best times to drink protein shakes
Drinking a shake at the wrong time won’t cause you any real harm – most likely, it will only be unnecessary and ineffective. So if you’ve already decided to boost your protein intake, why not make the best possible use of it? Here’s how.
You should drink your PRE-WORKOUT protein shake when :
#1. You haven’t eaten anything for at least 2 hours
Making sure to adequately fuel your body before you begin a strenuous session at the gym is the key to a great workout. Working out on an empty tank will make you feel drained rather quickly.
#2. You can’t eat a proper meal right after the workout
If you can eat a solid, protein rich meal after your workout, then you don’t need to drink a protein shake because you’ll be getting all the nutrients you need from the post-workout meal. Drink it before to power up your session.
#3. Your training lasts longer than one hour
If your workouts are long and your focus is on endurance, you should better put enough gas in the tank before you start. Since the nutrients from your last meal will get used up at some point during the training, drinking a pre-workout shake will help you maintain a steady flow of protein.
Drink a POST-WORKOUT protein shake when:
#1. The last meal before the workout was a mixed one
If your last meal was big and included all of the three crucial nutrients, i.e. carbohydrates, protein and fat, it will take longer for your digestive system to metabolize it, which means that your body will continue to absorb the meal’s nutrients throughout the workout. In that case, save the shake for later.
#2. You don’t plan to eat a post-workout meal
If you don’t have an appetite after training or don’t have the habit of eating a meal right after you work out or simply never have the time for it, consume a protein shake within one hour after you’ve finished to replace lost nutrients, re-hydrate and ensure adequate muscle recovery.
#3. Your training session is relatively short
Generally speaking, as your workout intensity and duration increase, your protein consumption should increase as well, and vice versa. Therefore, you don’t really need a pre-workout protein shake to stay fueled during a short or low-intensity session.
Sounds simple, right? That’s because it really is. Just don’t forget that protein shakes are not meant to replace whole food sources of protein, so keep your diet in check as well for best results.