Men: Should You Drink Your Protein Shake Before or After Your Workout?

You’re sold on the many benefits of drinking a protein shake as part of your regular diet and exercise plan. Not only that, you’re committed to doing the best you can to improve your overall health and fitness. Unfortunately, there’s one key question that keeps popping up: when is the best time to drink your protein shake? Should you consume it before your workout, or after? Is there an ideal window that will allow you to get the best results out of your protein shake? Below, we explore both sides of the protein-shake- timing debate.

The Benefits of Protein Shakes

Whether you’re a weekend warrior who gets in most of your exercise a couple of days a week or a dedicated athlete trying to build a substantial amount of strength or endurance, protein shakes offer a number of key advantages. Protein is the vital building block that helps you build muscle.

Consuming enough protein–made easy with convenient protein shakes–offers several benefits.

  • You’ll recover faster after an intense workout, since the protein you’ve consumed will help rebuild your muscles.
  • As a result of that faster recovery time, you’ll be less susceptible to injury.
  • Protein in shake form breaks down fast, which means that it will be delivered directly to your muscles in the aftermath of your workout, when you need it most.

Does Timing Matter?

There’s been a lot of chatter about that post-workout window when it’s best to take in certain nutrients in order to reap the highest number of benefits. You’re already drinking the protein shake for all the benefits it can offer, so you want to make sure that you’re getting the maximum benefits from it. In order to fully appreciate those gains, however, make sure you’re asking the right questions.

What’s the post-workout window?

For many years, bodybuilders and weekend warriors alike have held onto the fairy tale of the post-workout window.

This Cinderella-esque countdown is the 30 to 45-minute period following a workout when your body is able to use the right proteins and nutrients most efficiently.

There’s just one problem with this so-called window: it’s going to take your body longer than 45 minutes to break down any protein shake.

What are you eating before your workout?

This is the argument that leads many people to decide to consume their protein shakes before their workouts, rather than after. The food that you eat an hour or two before your workout is more likely to be metabolized during and after your workout–including that 45-minute window when you’ll make the best possible use of those amino acids and proteins in the shake that will help build your muscles.

It’s also important to remember that pre-workout nutrition can significantly impact how well your workout session goes, transforming your energy levels and increasing your endurance so that you’re able to tackle that heavy-hitting workout session with everything you’ve got.

What are you eating the rest of the day?

Post-workout protein might help give your muscles the amino acids they need to encourage recovery, but you don’t just need protein during your recovery period. Your nutrition is a 24-hour concern. Protein shakes aren’t just a great way to boost your workout recovery. They’re also an excellent option for meal replacements at any time of the day.

Opting for protein powder as a meal replacement option can make it easier to get in a healthy, nutrient-dense meal when you don’t have time to sit down and eat a full meal. Before you decide how much protein you need after a workout, consider what you’re eating the rest of the day. If you’re grabbing a piece of fruit for breakfast and heading straight to the gym, protein is more critical than if you’ve eaten a well-balanced diet throughout the rest of the day.

Why is protein so necessary after your workout?

Following your workout, during that critical recovery window, your muscles are repairing themselves. During an intense workout, your muscles are working hard. They may develop microscopic tears that require amino acids to repair. By giving your body a great source of protein following a workout, you allow your muscle to repair themselves more effectively, which will both decrease your recovery time and help you build strength faster.

Why drink your protein shake after a workout, rather than before?

There are several reasons why you might opt to drink your protein shake after your workout, rather than before. These reasons include:

  • Drinking your shake before your workout can make your stomach testy, especially since many protein shakes are dairy-based. This is particularly true if you prefer to blend your protein powder with milk.
  • Following a workout, you’re often ravenous. A protein shake will help fill you up and prevent you from either binge eating at your next meal or eating far too many calories munching due to hunger.
  • Protein shakes are often designed to digest more efficiently than many traditional meals. Often, shakes can deliver the protein punch you need within thirty minutes, rather than taking several hours.
  • Protein shakes can help with weight loss since they make you feel full.

Why opt to drink your protein shake before, rather than after, your workout?

Whether you do it as a meal replacement or a supplement just before your exercise routine, drinking your protein shake before your workout, offers several advantages to your exercise routine:

  • Boosts your energy throughout your workout
  • “Pre-loaded” with protein and amino acids, your body starts repairing muscle sooner
  • Less need to rush straight from your workout to your shaker cup.

So…when should you drink your protein shake?

Ultimately, the question of when you should drink your protein shake is up to you. Carefully consider things like your nutrition throughout the rest of the day, how much protein you’ve eaten before your workout, and what your plans are for after your workout.

Test-drink your protein shake a little while before your workout: does it upset your stomach, or give you an energy boost?

Over time, you’ll find the protein shake routine that works best for your active lifestyle.

Protein Shakes: What to Watch Out For

If you’re using protein shakes as a regular part of your recovery plan, make sure you take a few potential downsides into account.

Check the calorie count on your protein shake.

Most protein shakes are designed to be relatively low-calorie. Some shakes, however–especially those marketed for body builders or as muscle-increasing supplements–may have higher calorie counts than others.

Make sure you know how many calories are in your protein shake, especially if you’re using them as a meal replacement or your athletic goals include weight loss.

Make sure that you’re eating plenty of real foods along with your protein shakes.

While it’s fine to start your morning with a protein shake as a meal replacement–or as an addition to your meal–you need to make sure that you’re getting real nutrition. Real food is always going to contain more of the vital nutrients your body needs than a protein shake.

Protein shakes are less effective for people who engage in endurance exercises, rather than muscle-building.

While they still offer plenty of health benefits, protein shakes don’t help as much with muscle recovery after an endurance workout.

If you’re going to use protein shakes, it’s important that you find the protein shake that’s right for you. Check its nutrient content, read through the calorie content and other key nutritional information, and balance your workout needs in order to determine whether it’s more effective to consume your protein shake before or after your workout.

There’s plenty of controversy out there about the right time to drink your protein shake, but ultimately what it comes down to is this: you need to select the method that will best help you meet your goals.

If you’re choking down a protein shake before your workout, then feeling it slosh through your entire routine, it may be negatively impacting your fitness. On the other hand, if you need a solid source of energy throughout your workout, a protein shake is a great way to get that boost.


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