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Thursday, May 7, 2015

When Should You Drink Your Protein Shake?

Normal people talk about the latest trends, the weather and what the neighbors are doing for summer vacation. Fitness buffs….we argue about protein. 

Clearly, we're different than everyone else. One of our favorite things to argue about is whether it's better to take your protein shake right before or immediately after your workout. The answer is: it depends on your diet, your workout and many other factors. 

Scientists have uncovered a few things. However, there are a bunch of 'buts' hanging around out there.

Drinking Your Shake After a Workout

Some people say that post-workout protein shakes are the way to go because they support recovery and prevent muscle damage. This might be true if you're engaging in some serious anaerobic exercise, lifting or resistance training where your body takes a long time to recover. Otherwise, the damage is done.

If you're already eating enough protein, a post-workout shake with 20 grams of whey isn't going to improve strength, cardiovascular health or lean muscle mass any more than carbs or anything else. One study did find that whey protein enhanced recovery after intense exercise when it was paired with calcium beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB). 

The researchers found that participants had improved athletic performance and fewer biochemical markers associated with exercise-induced muscle damage.

If you like charging up with a post-workout shake, you have a lot of options, including a few vegan ones. Enjoy these high-protein foods to make your post-workout buzz feel even better.

• Milk, including soy or almond milk
• Hemp protein powder
• Greek yogurt
• Chia seeds

Drinking Your Shake Before a Workout

Folks who are in the pre-workout camp say that taking a protein supplement helps them perform better and reduces muscle damage. That sounds familiar!

Emerging research may support pre-workout protein supplements, but only in certain situations. If you're on a low-carb diet, pre-workout shakes are more important because they provide fuel for your muscles. However, there are a few caveats. To provide benefits, the protein must be broken down rapidly.

Some studies have shown that pre-workout shakes loaded with protein and carbohydrates can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories during and after your workout. They may also lower cortisol levels, a hormone that's linked to muscle damage.

If you feel like you're ready to kick butt with some supersets or high-intensity interval training, you might benefit from a pre-workout shake. For best results, add some of these easily digestible ingredients that your body can use immediately.

• Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), including leucine, isoleucine, valine
• Hydrolyzed casein
• Hydrolyzed whey

The Takeaway

Most studies have shown that timing doesn't matter when it comes to protein supplements. In fact, drinking a shake 30 minutes before and after working out had the same effect as drinking shakes first thing in the morning and right before bed.

Carbs are definitely out of fashion, but there's some evidence that they can boost your performance more than protein can on its own. One 2014 study from the Journal of British Nutrition found that eating whey protein, casein protein and carbohydrates before bed boosted resting metabolism the next morning.

Rules for Maximizing Results

• Fuel up with carbs and protein before high-intensity workouts.
• If you're having fun with light or moderate workouts, don't worry about pre-routine shakes.
• Pre-workout shakes with BCAAs are only important if you exercise while fasting. In that case, amino acid supplements will prevent muscle loss
• If you're working out for more than 90 minutes, eat a protein-rich snack during the routine.
• You don't need to eat or grab a shake immediately after exercising. Consuming protein up to three hours after has the same benefits.
• Remember that your workout gives you results, not your protein shake. If you still can't decide whether pre- or post-workout shakes are better, you can always do both. What's your philosophy?

Author Bio: Rick Grimes is a health and fitness nut who spends his free time blogging about supplements at He is an ex-soccer player who enjoys exercise, running, hiking, swimming, and most of all fishing.