The Best Time To Drink a Protein Shake Explained

Savvy athletes who know when's the best time to take protein are working out with battle ropes in a fitness gym

 

If you’re taking protein to boost your performance, you want to know the best time to drink a protein shake. After all, the whole point of your supplement is to get the best results possible. So when should you drink a protein shake? And does the timing even matter? 

Today we will discuss the best time to take protein depending on your workout goals. But before we discuss the best time to drink a protein shake, it’s important to talk about what is in your protein shake. Because if you aren’t fueling your body the right way, the timing won’t matter! 

What is the best type of protein to put in my protein shake?

There are so many types of protein supplements on the market that it can be difficult to know where to start when optimizing your workout routine. Luckily, we know a thing or two about supplements, and here is our ten cents on the most popular types of protein out there. 

Whey protein 

Whey protein is one of the most popular protein supplements out there – but is it the best?

We don’t generally recommend whey protein. While it works for some people, it is a dairy-based protein, which means it causes stomach upset in people with lactose intolerance (which is 65% of the population). 

It is also harder to digest than collagen protein, so it could cause an upset stomach even if you aren’t lactose intolerant. 

Whey protein also contributes to the environmental footprint of the dairy industry, which may concern those focused on sustainability and environmental issues.

Collagen protein

Collagen is undoubtedly the best protein for athletes. It gives you all the same benefits of whey protein, but without the digestive issues. It is also what your body naturally uses to strengthen and repair your connective issues, so it can speed recovery and help with injury prevention. 

Casein protein

Casein protein, like whey protein, is derived from dairy products. It has much slower absorption than other proteins on this list, which is why some people choose to take it before bed. We don’t recommend taking it around workouts though, since you want a more bioavailable supplement. 

Soy protein

Soy protein is a complete protein source, which makes it a solid option for athletes who eat a plant-based diet. But if you choose to use soy as your main protein supplement, there are a few things you should be aware of. 

Soy contains compounds called phytoestrogens, which can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Some studies have raised concerns about potential hormonal imbalances in men with very high soy intake.

Soy also contains phytates and trypsin inhibitors, which can interfere with the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc. Athletes who rely heavily on soy protein may need to pay attention to their overall mineral intake and consider diversifying their protein sources.

Pea protein 

Pea protein is another popular plant-based protein. Unfortunately it isn’t a complete protein. It has low levels of the amino acids cysteine and methionine, so you will want to mix up your protein sources instead of relying solely on pea protein.

Be aware that plant-based proteins generally have lower protein content and worse digestibility when compared to animal-based proteins, so adjust your diet accordingly to ensure you’re getting adequate protein levels. 

Rice protein

Rice protein is a plant-based protein with low levels of the essential amino acid lysine. Because of this, some athletes choose to mix pea and rice protein together to make up for the imbalances and achieve a more complete protein supplement. 

Hemp protein

This plant-based protein is made from hemp seeds and has high levels of fiber, omega-3s, and omega-6 fats. Hemp protein is also low in lysine, so it’s important to mix it with another protein like collagen, soy, or pea protein in order to have a more complete amino acid profile. 

Now that you have a better idea of what protein you should use, it’s time to talk about the subject you’re here for: the best time to drink a protein shake.

Does the timing of my protein shake matter?

Some athletes swear the best time to drink a protein shake is after their workout. Others will scream the benefits of pre-workout protein shakes to the rooftops. So when should you drink a protein shake? 

There are benefits to both pre-workout and post-workout protein shakes, and the timing may not be as important as you think. Studies have found that the amount of protein and the quality of the protein are much more important than determining the best time to take protein. 

That being said, there may be some slight differences for your body when choosing the timing of your protein supplement – so let’s discuss the best time to drink a protein shake based on your workout goals. 

The best time to drink a protein shake

The best time to drink a protein shake depends on your health and fitness goals. Depending on whether you want to build muscle, boost endurance, or lose weight, you might want to consume your supplement at a specific time.

Here is the best time to drink a protein shake broken down by goal:

For building muscle

Protein is important for building muscle, and you need to consume more protein than your body breaks down during your workout. If you’re hoping to use peptides for muscle growth, the best time to drink a protein shake is heavily debated.  

Many fitness enthusiasts swear that the best time to drink a protein shake is 15 – 60 minutes after your workout, but recent research has shown that this anabolic window is much larger than we previously thought. 

According to these studies, the best time to drink a protein shake for building muscle mass is any time up to two hours after your workout. 

Of course, if you are working out in a fasted state, such as before breakfast, your body might start to burn muscle instead of fat. As such, it’s a good idea to eat before your workout – and maybe even take a protein supplement, which can reduce the likelihood of muscle damage. 

For faster recovery 

When should you drink a protein shake to improve your post workout recovery time? 

Generally speaking, the best time to drink a protein shake is during and after exercise. This will help reduce muscle soreness and speed recovery times by providing your muscles with the nutrients they need to heal. 

For losing weight 

If your main goal of exercise is to lose weight, it doesn’t really matter if you take your protein before or after your workout. The best time to drink a protein shake for weight loss is…frequently. 

You should eat a high-protein diet and spread your protein intake out throughout the day. This can help raise your metabolism and reduce your appetite. 

Why?

Protein helps curb your appetite by reducing levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. This means consuming a protein shake between meals could lead you to eat fewer calories later in the day.

Of course, you shouldn’t use protein shakes in place of a balanced, whole-food diet. Your protein supplement works best alongside other nutritious foods. 

For boosting endurance 

If you’re hoping to boost your endurance, the best time to drink a protein shake is actually before your workout. This will preserve your muscles as much as possible and provide a source of energy to help your body through long and grueling workouts. 

If you’re gearing up for a marathon, a protein-rich snack or shake 30 minutes to an hour before your race can be beneficial. Of course, it’s not going to carry you through the entire race. That’s why it’s equally important for endurance athletes to know what to drink during workouts

Since you probably don’t want to lug a protein shake around, we recommend our liquid protein shots. These collagen protein shots are pre-portioned and easy to throw in your pocket. When you’re ready for more protein, rip it open and toss it back – no mixing required.

Liquid protein shots make it easy to achieve your optimal protein intake, so you don’t need to worry about the best time to drink a protein shake. You can get your protein whenever it's needed most. 

FAQs about protein shakes

Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about protein shakes:

Is it better to drink a protein shake before or after workout?

Choosing whether to drink protein before or after workouts is an entirely personal decision. It depends on your lifestyle, goals, and general preferences. The amount and quality of your protein play a much bigger role in your results than which side of your workout you take your protein on. 

Is it OK to workout on an empty stomach?

Exercising in a fasted state may work best for some athletes, and you can certainly burn some body fat quickly this way. But for most people, this isn’t the healthiest option in the long run. That is especially true if you are doing endurance training or high-intensity exercise. 

It’s best to eat a small snack or protein shake both before and after you workout to ensure your body is properly fueled to perform its best. 

If you feel fine and energized on an empty stomach, there is nothing wrong with working out that way from time to time. But if you feel weak or dizzy, it’s important to eat before you exercise. Everyone’s body is different, so it will depend on your biology and your goals. 

Is too much protein bad for you?

Excessive protein intake doesn’t generally have any dangerous side effects, but it can cause stomach upset – and be a complete waste. Your body has a set protein absorption rate, and if you take more than the recommended amount at one time, your body won’t be able to digest it. 

Most adult athletes can benefit from consuming 0.6 – 1.0 grams of protein per pound (1.4 – 2.2 grams per kg) of body weight.

Can you drink a protein shake before bed?

Don’t discount bedtime from the best time to drink a protein shake! 

Studies have found that consuming protein before bed is a good way to promote muscle growth and help your body adapt to your exercise routine. When you take protein before bed, your muscles can recover throughout the night.

Can you drink a protein shake on an empty stomach?

Absolutely. The best time to take protein has nothing to do with whether you’ve already eaten a snack or not. If your protein shake causes indigestion, it has to do with the ingredients and not the timing. 

Is my protein shake causing indigestion?

It’s completely possible that your protein shake is causing indigestion! There are three possible reasons for this:

  • Too much protein: If you try to take more than the recommended amount of protein, you could end up with a “too much protein stomach ache” while trying to digest it.

  • The wrong type of protein: If you are lactose-intolerant, or have a sensitive stomach, it’s better to use collagen protein vs whey protein. That’s because whey is made from dairy and is more difficult for your body to digest. 

  • Questionable additives: Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so check the label of your protein supplement carefully to make sure there aren’t any surprises in there. You could absolutely have a negative reaction to an additive in your protein shake. 

Are protein shakes healthy?

As we just mentioned, protein shakes (and the supplements you put in them) aren’t regulated by the FDA. It’s important to check the label carefully to make sure your protein shake is clean and safe. 

If you are using a premixed shake, there could be excess sugars or preservatives. Likewise, there could be additives in your protein supplement, too. 

You should avoid any company that lists vague ingredients like “proprietary blend,” and should read customer reviews carefully. 


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