Should You Drink Protein Before or After Workouts?

Young athlete preparing to workout is wondering, "Should I take protein before or after workout?"


Protein is crucial if you’re hoping to get the most out of your workouts. And while many athletes are serious about their protein intake, there is still a lot of debate around the timing of that intake. So you may be wondering: Should I take protein before or after workouts?

Some athletes are squarely in the camp of drinking protein after their workouts, while others swear by drinking protein beforehand. But does the timing really matter? Is protein before or after workouts better? Or should you actually do both?

Today, we will go over all the details you need to know about proper protein supplementation to help you decide if you should use protein before or after workouts. We’ll cover why protein is important, if (and how much) the timing matters, whether it’s better to have protein before or after workouts, and how to optimize your supplementation schedule. 

Before we get into the benefits of taking protein before or after workouts, let’s discuss the benefits of protein for athletes in general, so you can understand the importance of adding it into your workout routine correctly. 

Why is protein important for athletes? 

There are many reasons why athletes use protein to reach their workout goals. Protein is important for your body. Here’s why. 

Protein can give you energy

Your body needs protein to function. If you have depleted protein levels, you won’t have the energy you need for an effective workout. 

Of course, you shouldn’t rely only on protein. Your main source of quick energy is carbohydrates, so you should be sure to get a mix of carbs and protein in your diet.

But protein can increase your energy levels by providing your body with the amino acids it needs to function properly during intense workouts.

Protein speeds your recovery 

The reason you feel sore after a grueling workout is that the strain you put your muscles under has created micro-tears in your muscle fibers. When your body repairs those micro-tears, your muscles build back stronger.

But when you’re trying to reach peak performance, you don’t want to wait any longer than necessary for your body to recover. That’s where protein comes in. A high-quality protein source contains the amino acids your body needs to repair muscle fibers quickly

Protein helps you feel satiated

Whether you take protein before or after workout, no one wants to do a Spartan Race on an uncomfortably full stomach. It’s important to maximize the effect of your nutrients so you aren’t eating heavy foods that are full of calories and little else. 

A quick protein supplement can make all the difference in your workout without physically filling you up. Best yet, it can make you feel full for a lot longer than carbs or fats. That’s because protein reduces the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin which, in turn, helps you feel more satiated during exercise.

Protein builds muscle

The essential amino acids in protein are the major building blocks your body needs to grow muscle mass.

As we mentioned earlier, your muscles develop tiny tears when you challenge them during a workout. When you repair them, it makes your muscles a little bigger and stronger – and your body uses protein to do this. 

So now that you understand just a few of the reasons why protein is important for your workouts, when should you take your protein? Should you have protein before or after workouts?

Let’s take a look at how to time your supplementation and if having protein before or after workout is best for your routine. 

Does the timing of protein supplementation matter?

You’ve probably heard of the anabolic window. And if you haven’t, it’s the window of opportunity surrounding a workout where your muscles use protein most effectively. 

For years, it was believed that that window of time was only 30 minutes long, so people claimed you should consume protein within 30 minutes of your workout. But recent studies have shown that the anabolic window is much longer than 30 minutes. And it’s not only limited to after your workout. 

Really, you should just ensure that your pre- and post-workout meals are no more than four to six hours apart to maximize your results.  

In fact, studies are finding that whether you drink protein before or after workouts isn’t nearly as important as how much protein you are taking, and the quality of protein you are taking. That being said, there may be a few differences when drinking protein before or after workouts. 

So, what is the best time to drink a protein shake? Let’s take a look at the effects of drinking protein before or after workouts. 

Should I take protein before or after workouts?

When it comes to whether to drink protein before or after workouts, the choice is yours! Studies have found that whether you take protein before or after workouts, it should have very similar effects on your muscles

Choosing whether to take protein before or after workouts is a personal choice that depends on your lifestyle, goals, and needs. If you have a hard time working out on an empty stomach, maybe you would prefer to take protein before workouts. 

If you feel sick when you eat before exercise, then obviously having your protein shake afterward will be preferable for you.

Of course, there is no reason your protein has to be in the form of a shake either. You can eat some chicken breast, or have some high-quality liquid protein shots! As long as you are fueling your body with the right nutrients, you will be set. 

That being said, there may be some slight differences when it comes to taking protein before or after workouts. 

Benefits of taking protein before workouts 

Taking protein before workouts can help your muscles activate and adapt better to your training. It may also help reduce muscle breakdown during your workout, improving your endurance

A few of the benefits of taking protein before a workout include: 

Muscle preservation: Pre-workout protein intake may help prevent muscle breakdown during exercise, especially during intense or prolonged workouts.

Source of energy: Protein can provide a steady energy source during exercise, particularly when consumed with carbohydrates. This can help sustain energy levels throughout the workout and delay fatigue.

Improved performance: Adequate protein intake before a workout may enhance exercise performance by supporting muscle function and endurance.

Increased strength: Some research suggests that consuming protein before resistance training sessions may enhance strength gains over time.

Appetite control: Protein can help promote feelings of fullness and satiety, which may help control appetite and prevent overeating post-workout. 

Nutrient timing: Consuming protein before exercise for optimal nutrient timing, ensuring amino acids are available when your muscles need them most for repair and growth.

Individual responses to pre-workout protein intake may vary, and the effectiveness of consuming protein before or after workouts may depend on factors such as the type and timing of protein consumed, overall diet, exercise intensity, and individual goals. 

Benefits of taking protein after workouts

If you take protein after your workouts, it will help to reduce inflammation, repair muscle breakdown, and give you a boost of energy by replacing fluids and nutrients that you lost during your workout. 

Additional potential benefits of taking protein after a workout include:

Muscle repair and growth: Consuming protein after a workout may provide essential amino acids that are necessary for muscle repair and growth. This helps to rebuild muscle tissue that may have been damaged during exercise, leading to muscle recovery and adaptation.

Muscle protein synthesis: Consuming protein before or after workouts can help stimulate muscle protein synthesis, the process by which your body builds and repairs muscle tissue. This can aid in muscle growth and recovery.

Improved muscle function: Adequate protein intake after a workout supports muscle function and recovery, allowing for better performance in subsequent training sessions.

Reduced muscle soreness: Protein consumption post-exercise may help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the muscle pain and stiffness that often occur 24-48 hours after intense or unaccustomed exercise.

Preservation of lean body mass: Consuming protein after a workout may preserve lean body mass by providing amino acids to support muscle maintenance and prevent muscle breakdown.

Replenishment of glycogen stores: Pairing protein with carbohydrates after a workout may help replenish glycogen stores, the primary fuel source for muscles during exercise. This supports recovery and prepares the body for future workouts.

Appetite regulation: Protein consumption after exercise may help regulate appetite by promoting feelings of fullness and satiety. This may aid in controlling food intake and supporting weight management goals.

Of course, if you are putting your body through high-intensity workouts like HIIT, CrossFit, Iron Man, or long-distance running, you might benefit from having protein before and after workouts – within a 30 to 45 minute window on either side. Make sure you add in some carbs, too. 

If you are just doing the average workout or body-weight training, taking protein before and after workouts will be overkill, so you can choose before or after – whatever timing works best for you.

But, as we mentioned before, instead of asking, “Should I take protein before or after workouts?” you should really be asking, “How much protein should I be consuming?” or “What is the best protein for athletes?”

So let’s talk about how you can get the most out of your protein supplement. 

Optimizing your supplementation schedule

Once you decide whether to have protein before or after workouts, to ensure you’re receiving the most benefits possible from your protein intake, it’s important to know how much protein to take, what type of protein to take, and how to choose the highest quality supplements. 

How much protein should you take?

How many grams of protein to take after a workout depends on a few factors, such as your gender, your body weight, and the intensity of the exercise you’re doing. 

To calculate your individual protein requirements, determine your body weight in kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2. Then, calculate how many grams of protein you need based on the intensity of your workouts:

  • Low intensity: 0.8g per kilogram of body weight
  • Moderate intensity: 1.2g per kilogram of body weight
  • High intensity: 2.0g per kilogram of body weight

If you are body building, you may need a bit more protein. If you are an endurance athlete, you may need to replace some of your protein intake with more carbs.  

In general though, the majority of athletes do not need to exceed 25 grams of protein at one time. Your body can’t even process more than 30 grams at once, so if you think doubling up on your protein will give your body extra nutrients, anything over 30 grams is going to waste. 

Now that you know how much protein your body needs, let’s move on to the next question on many people’s minds: Can I drink two protein shakes in a day

Can you have two protein shakes a day? 

Yes, you can have two protein shakes a day, and you can have protein before or after workouts. That being said, you shouldn’t exceed the amount of protein your body needs for peak performance, or you will end up with a too much protein stomach ache

It’s also important not to replace your meals with protein shakes. Shakes can be used as protein before or after workouts or as snacks between mealtimes. You should ideally be getting your daily protein intake from a variety of sources.  

Let’s discuss what your options are. 

What types of protein are there? 

Once you decide whether to take protein before or after workouts, you need to decide what kind of protein you are going to take! Here are some of your protein source options:

Whole protein from animal sources

It’s important to get the majority of your daily protein intake from whole foods. Animal sources like meat, fish, and dairy products are great sources of protein, because they are complete protein sources that contain all nine essential amino acids. These are the ones your body cannot make on its own. 

Whole protein from plant sources 

Plant sources of protein are by and large incomplete proteins. If you are vegan or vegetarian, it’s important to research what essential amino acids different plant sources are lacking so you can find other plants to supplement with. 

For example, legumes and veggies tend to be low in methionine and cysteine, while grains, nuts, and seeds tend to be low in lysine. Quinoa, soy, hemp, and chia are more complete sources of protein, but they contain less protein than animal sources. 

Collagen protein 

While it’s great to get protein from whole sources, it’s not the most bioavailable way. If you want to fully digest your protein and make use of protein before or after workouts, you probably want to take a protein supplement. 

One of the very best protein supplements for athletes is collagen protein. Collagen not only helps you to bulk up, it also helps with injury prevention and faster recovery when you do get injured – so you can stay in the game. 

Whey protein 

Whey protein is one of the most popular protein sources out there, but when it comes to collagen protein vs whey protein, collagen wins every time in our book. That’s because this milk-derived protein is harder to digest and causes issues for people with lactose intolerance. 

Egg protein

Egg protein supplements are made from powdered egg whites. They digest at a medium rate and tend to be some of the most expensive protein supplements on the market, so they aren’t the best choice for most people.

That being said, if you are vegetarian and lactose intolerant, egg protein may be a better option for you than plant-based proteins. 

Soy protein 

Soy protein is one of the few plant proteins that contains all of the essential amino acids. There is some conflicting evidence around whether frequent soy intake messes with your hormones, so do some research before choosing this as your main protein supplement. 

Rice and pea proteins

Rice and pea proteins are both incomplete protein sources, but combining them makes them a complete protein. If you want to shell out for both and mix them, they may be a good option for vegan athletes. 

What is the most effective protein supplement?

If you want to get the very most out of your protein supplement, we recommend a collagen supplement. And not just any of the top collagen supplements, but a hydrolyzed one. 

Collagen has all the benefits of other animal proteins like whey and egg protein, but also contains additional healing and injury prevention benefits since collagen is THE protein your body uses to naturally build new tissue fibers.  

Providing your body with extra collagen protein will help you to recover faster and workout for longer – and those are only a few of the liquid collagen benefits

At Frog Fuel, our single-serving liquid collagen shots don’t need to be mixed with anything, making them easy to throw in your gym bag or pocket and take whenever you need them. 

Whether you decide to take protein before or after workouts (or both) our liquid protein shots are an easy way to meet your protein goals. 

FAQs about taking protein before or after workouts

Whether to take protein before or after workouts is a common question. Here are some other common questions many athletes ask regarding their protein intake:  

When is the best time to drink a protein shake?

The best time to drink a protein shake can vary depending on individual goals and preferences. Drinking protein before or after workouts is up to you, and you’re not limited to only those two options. 

Common times to consume a protein shake include: 

Post-workout: Consuming a protein shake within 30 minutes to an hour after exercise can help support muscle recovery and growth by providing the necessary amino acids for protein synthesis. 

Between meals: Drinking a protein shake between meals can help satisfy hunger, maintain muscle mass, and provide a convenient source of protein. 

As a meal replacement: Protein shakes can be used as a quick and convenient meal replacement when you're on the go or don't have time for a sit-down meal.

Does eating protein before a workout help build muscle?

Consuming protein before a workout can support muscle protein synthesis and provide amino acids for muscle repair and growth. While the timing of protein intake is important, it’s suggested that consuming protein within a few hours before exercise can help maximize muscle protein synthesis during and after the workout. 

However, the overall protein intake throughout the day and the quality of protein sources are also crucial factors for muscle building.

What is best to eat before a workout?

The best pre-workout meal or snack should combine carbohydrates and protein to fuel your workout and support muscle recovery. 

Some options include:

  • Whole grain toast with nut butter
  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Oatmeal topped with berries and nuts
  • A banana with a handful of almonds
  • A collagen protein smoothie made with fruit
  • Whole grain cereal with milk
  • A turkey or chicken wrap with vegetables
  • Brown rice with grilled chicken or tofu
  • A liquid collagen protein shot

Choose easily digestible foods that sit well with your stomach, as overeating or consuming foods that are too heavy or high in fat may cause discomfort during your workout.  

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