Should You Have a Protein Shake Before or After Your Workout?

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When and how you consume protein is hotly debated among athletes and workout enthusiasts. It can be confusing for newcomers to decide whether they should eat or drink protein before or after workout sessions.

In the end, the answer to that question can vary from body to body. Some studies even suggest that the effects of protein are the same no matter when you consume it. These researchers suggest that the amounts of protein you consume are what matters.

However, this article will examine why and how you can benefit from pre and post-workout protein . You can use this evidence to determine if you should have protein before or after your workouts.

Should You Have Protein Before or After a Workout?

Truthfully, this should not be your first question. First, track the protein in your regular diet. Protein is essential for muscle growth , injury repair, and brain function. Different people have different needs. Weight, age, and biological sex affect your recommended daily protein intake .

If all you do is drink a protein shake before or after workout sessions, it is unlikely that you are getting any benefit. Protein shakes can be part of your protein intake, but they cannot do it alone. Your protein should mostly come from meals . Shakes and bars are supplements.

Is Your Diet Meeting Your Fitness Goals?

Protein Chefs offers healthy, fresh, on-the-go meals—perfect for your lifestyle.

As a general rule, you can estimate your ideal protein intake by multiplying 0.36 by your body weight per day . For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim for 54 grams of protein per day. 

That being said, other factors can alter this number. The National Agricultural Library has a free online nutrition calculator to give you a clearer idea of your protein needs. 

Once you have that under control, timing is truly a matter of preference. There are pros and cons to both sides. It might take a little bit of “guess-and-check” work before you figure out what feels good to you. 

Protein Before Workouts

A growing trend among fitness enthusiasts and influencers is to drink a pre-workout shake . They can be healthy, but you should be aware that most pre-workout formulas are packed with caffeine. The reason why caffeine is in these shakes is because it boosts energy and focus.

This does not mean pre-workouts are dangerous. It simply means that you should exercise precaution when you choose a pre-workout protein shake if you are watching your caffeine consumption. You can opt for low-caffeine solutions or create a homemade pre-workout formula.

Drink a Protein Shake Before or After a Workout
Credit: Unsplash

Benefits of Pre-Workout Protein

The biggest benefit of consuming protein before a workout is that it gives you an energy boost. Even caffeine-free shakes are packed with nutrients that increase energy. Working out on an empty stomach will decrease performance and can make you feel sick.

Increasing your protein intake before a workout can also jumpstart your body’s muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and make it last longer. This is because pre-workout protein increases the number of amino acids in your blood during your session. 

More amino acids mean less muscle breakdown . There is no reason for your body to fuel itself with protein stored in your muscle tissues . 

When you have excessive amino acids in your bloodstream, it is called hyperaminoacidemia . Periods of hyperaminoacidemia increase your body’s ability to absorb protein. Pre-workout shakes can increase your hyperaminoacidemia periods by up to three hours post-workout.

Pre-Workout Protein Cons

Working out on an empty stomach can make you feel sick. Ironically, so can working out when you feel too full. 

For this reason, you should drink a protein shake instead of eating a meal near workout times. However, you can still gain pre-workout benefits by eating a good meal one or two hours before your workout.

If you use pre-workout shakes with caffeine, that might make you feel jittery or anxious. Caffeinated pre-workout supplements may also disrupt your sleep schedule. Additionally, high doses of caffeine can lead to headaches and migraines.

Protein After Workouts

Consuming protein 30 minutes after a workout is a popular standard. Interestingly, this is a myth. In reality, your anabolic window lasts approximately four to six hours after your workout. 

You have lots of time to find or prepare a high-quality protein source instead of quickly grabbing one with a lot of sugar and calories

The quality of your post-workout protein matters the most. Your body burns through sugars and simple carbohydrates quickly. Make sure your protein source is protein-forward instead of high-sugar with protein.

Benefits of Post-Workout Protein

Protein after a workout speeds up muscle recovery . Exercise puts your body under a lot of physiological stress and causes micro-trauma in your muscles. Once you enter a resting state, your body immediately gets to work repairing the “damage.”

Lack of protein during this recovery phase worsens the symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS occurs while your body is building muscle and healing micro-traumas. The more protein your body has, the less time it takes to finish this process.

Should You Have Protein Before or After a Workout?
Credit: Dirima

Post-Workout Protein Cons

There are no significant cons to consuming protein after a workout. However, choosing the wrong type of post-workout protein may be less effective. 

Some people report feeling constipated from post-workout shakes. This is probably caused by other ingredients, not the protein itself.

Should you Eat Protein Before or After Workout Sessions, or Drink it?

The debate over whether you should have protein powder before or after workout sessions typically involves whether you should drink it or eat it. Like timing, the right answer to this question depends on your body and goals. 

Protein Drinks Before or After Workout Sessions

Drinking protein beverages is good if you want to digest your protein faster. This is true whether you drink protein before or after workout times. 

Drinks will pass through your body faster than food. Additionally, the liquid ingredients in protein shakes are hydrating. Drinking a protein shake after your workout will help replenish lost water. Drinking one beforehand prevents nausea from food sitting in your stomach.

The type of protein powder in your shake will also affect absorption. Be selective about which one you add to your protein drink before or after workout sessions. Whey proteins are fast-absorbing while egg and soy proteins are slower. 

Tip  

Use fast-absorbing proteins for post-workout recovery and slow-absorbing ones for overnight muscle growth.

Protein Bars Before or After Workout Sessions

Eating a protein bar before or after workout sessions is a quick and easy way to get a lot of nutrients fast. Be mindful of your bar’s ingredients. Many protein bars are high in sugar, which can cause problems if your goal is to lose weight. 

If you eat a protein bar pre-workout, opt for plant-based ingredients like nut butter. This is because plants are easier to digest than animal products. Easier digestion means fewer abdominal cramps during your workout. 

Other than eating a protein bar after or before workout times, they can also be a healthy snack anytime. If you are going for four or more hours between meals, protein bars are a good thing to eat. They are more nutritious than junk food and keep you feeling full for longer.

Build Muscle Mass with a High-Protein Diet

Do you drink protein before or after a workout ? What works better for you?

You should decide when to drink a protein shake. Before or after workout sessions, you can always benefit from nutritional foods packed with protein. A well-thought-out meal plan is your ticket to meeting your body’s protein needs. 

Protein Chefs delivers high-protein meal plans for any diet. Keto, paleo, vegan, Halal, and standard meal options are available to anyone in Ontario. Our menu rotates monthly so you can eat healthy without getting bored of the same foods.

Order now to get $15 off your first meal. Contact us today.

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