Home Nutrition Protein Shakes: Before or After a Workout? Let Dieticians Explain…

Protein Shakes: Before or After a Workout? Let Dieticians Explain…

Written by Jane Summerfield

If you wanna build muscles fast, shrink your recovery time, and boost your macros, then you can’t go wrong with a good protein shake.

In fact, research proves that when you supplement with protein for your resistance training program, you maintain lean body mass and increase strength [1].

Adding protein shake to your workouts is actually a no-brainer if you want to build size, strength, and athleticism.

You also have to remember that taking protein shakes as dietary protein supplementation doesn’t mean it’s a catch-all solution for adding mass quickly.

You rather need to think of it as a way of increasing your total protein intake on a daily basis and hitting your health and fitness goals.

One hurdle that a lot of fitness guys battle with is when to take their protein shakes – should they be taken before the workout or after the workout?

A study from the University of Montreal discovered that three out of four professional athletes couldn’t improve their performance or recovery even with the help of protein shakes [2].

They didn’t know how to take them properly. 

But don’t worry, we have the answer for you right here.

By the end of this article, you will know when and how to take them.

What is protein then?

Proteins are completely complex substances in the body.

Protein consists of amino acid residues; they are present in all living organisms.

They include essential compounds in the body like hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.

Our bodies need essential amino acids to function properly – they carry oxygen through the blood, boost the immune system, and build muscle.

Protein must be pretty important because there are 20 different amino acids in all. Of the 20, the body can’t produce nine of them.

They are called essential amino acids and we need to get these in from the food we eat, such as eggs and chicken.

Other proteins source commonly used during and after exercise including endurance training and weight training are whey protein, and casein protein derived from milk.

There are also plant-based protein supplements on the market that are all great because they provide a low-carb diet for anyone who wants to exercise and lose fat.

How much protein do you need? 

Your total daily protein intake will depend on what your training goals are.

The US Food and Nutrition Board says that an average adult person needs 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight. See here how much you need [3].

Naturally, if you want to bulk up, you need more protein. But instead of trying to take in calorie-dense foods, choose high-protein foods.

This will stave off any calorie deficit or hunger pangs that diligent dieters battle with.

For instance, if you weighed 100 kg

Then you would need to eat around seven chicken breasts every day. 

That sounds unrealistic, doesn’t it?

It sounds like extreme eating.

But it happens. Competitive bodybuilders eat like that.

But if you are into training for the first time, then 1.5 g of protein per kg of bodyweight seems to be in order. 

Do protein shakes work for muscle growth?

Mind you, protein shakes should never replace getting in real food and having proper nutrition.

You can drink a protein shake for all the benefits but it should be to supplement your diet, as an add-on.

You shouldn’t try and cut corners with them, by relying on them as your only source of protein.

Nevertheless, protein shakes are a popular and convenient way to add more protein to your diet during muscle-building exercise.

  • Protein shake has been shown to enhance muscle growth [4] when paired with muscle strength training.
  • They also support fat loss while effectively building muscle size.

Because protein is so good for your health, it is better to consume natural sources

of protein as much as one can. [5]

Warning about excess amino acids in the body

Taking in too much protein means your kidneys have to work harder

The kidneys have to digest all the proteins which apparently is not the best news for the kidneys [6].

Too much protein can also affect the heart and liver as well.

That means when you take supplements, it should be under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist or dietician.

When Should I Take My Protein Shake Then?: Before or After My Workout?

That’s quite a hard decision, isn’t it?

How do you know whether it’s better for your health to drink your protein shake before or after a workout?

If you really think about it, it sounds as if they both have their merits.

The bottom line is that drinking a protein shake before your training session will help to fuel your workouts with all the extra nutrients.

That means you will be able to perform at your best. Your body, mind, and spirit will have been fed.

You might be one of those who believe that you should drink your protein shake after your workout

Because then you are replacing all the nutrients that you have lost through sweating, etc.

Let’s look at what some experts say and then you can decide what is best for you in the future.

In actual fact, there isn’t a right answer or a wrong answer.

It all depends on your goals.

According to a consulting sports nutritionist, it all depends as well on when you had your last meal prior to working out.

They say that if you want to build muscle maximally, you need to have a protein-rich meal or shake every 3-5 hours.

And that would be throughout the day.

One research shows that the use of protein [7] to build muscle increases when you eat a moderate amount of protein – say about 30 grams per meal – compared to eating the recommended daily amount of o.8 grams per kilogram of your body weight in one shot.

Recent research suggests that the best practice is to spread your protein evenly out

Remember to keep your protein consumption regular, it’s not about the time that you eat or drink your protein.

What is important is the total amount of protein that you consume each day.

It all boils down to what you prefer when it comes to your workouts.

If you prefer a protein shake before your workout, it will be just as beneficial as after your workout.

So that leaves us with the answer…

You should take protein before and after a workout

All serious athletes and gym rats know that it is crucial to have protein after a workout for both muscle repair and quicker muscle recovery.

This would be to rebuild muscle and protect it.

But the fact remains that a pre-workout protein snack is just as important as a post-workout snack. 

When you have a pre-workout shake, you actually help to fuel your muscles during the exercise.

In your protein drink, there was no doubt BCAAs can add extra benefits to your workout nutrition.

Once the BCAAs are absorbed, they quickly enter the bloodstream where the muscles put them to use.

When you drink protein supplements before your workout, you are jumpstarting the whole process of muscle protein synthesis.

The BCAAs help to prevent muscle breakdown. Scientific studies show that when you ingest protein before working out, you burn more calories [8].

This is an unknown phenomenon – but widely accepted – that drinking protein shakes before exercising equates to increased calorie burning.

Another benefit of having your protein shake pre-workout is that it carries over to after you have done exercising.

This is because the amino acid levels in your blood stay high. This helps to preserve muscle mass, and prevent your muscles from breaking down after your workout. 

What about after the gym work?

Experts say you should drink protein after a workout as well as before your workout!

You may be exposed to the risk of muscle breakdown when you exercise regularly or when you perform resistance and endurance training to grow muscle.

Consuming protein after your workout helps to replenish the store of amino acids in your body.

This means that your muscles can be repaired and rebuilt.

To properly fuel your body for your next workout session, your goal should be to minimize the breakdown of protein and maximize protein synthesis.

This all gets done when you consume protein post workout[9].

One famous dietitian-scientist, Dr. Jeff Volek, recommends that you split your protein intake in two when you train

He recommends that you have half your protein 30 minutes before your workout and the other half after your workout is finished.

The idea of 30 minutes anabolic window suggests that protein synthesis occurs effectively within the short half an hour duration.

Many bodybuilders believe that they can make the most gains after a training session with normally elevated blood amino acids during this so-called ‘anabolic window’.

Usually, the right amount of protein for each workout will be between 10 and 20 grams of protein.

This amount can increase.

It will depend on the training levels of each person. 

So now you know that it is very important to drink protein before and after your exercise. 

Things to remember about drinking a protein shake

One of the top things to remember about your protein shake is that it should be protein in its purest form.

You need to ensure that your protein shake is all-natural, raw, vegan protein powder.

You should take about 15 or more grams of protein per serving.

During your crucial pre-workouts and post-workouts, your body is looking to be replenished.

You need to give your body clean and natural sources of protein.

The protein needs to be absorbed quickly and properly into your body. There should be no forcing of unhealthy additives and chemicals into your body.

At the end of the day, you want to enhance athletic performance

You also want to improve your mental focus.

You want to help your body to recover safely from your workouts, while at the same time, minimizing the damage to the muscles.

The best way to do this is to drink clean, high-quality protein before and after your workout.

Are you meeting your daily protein intake?

People should have regular servings of protein every three to five hours during the day.

This would be despite whether they did heavy, tough training for an hour, or whether they did gentle yoga training for 30 minutes.

Those who are more active and who do tougher workouts should consume more protein than the average person.


Many people are adamant that for them, a post-workout protein shake maximizes the results of their training.

There are also benefits to be gained from consuming protein before and after training and at different times during the day.

It doesn’t matter whether you drink a protein shake before or after a workout

What is important is that you consume protein throughout the day.

You need to vary your protein sources to ensure you give your body the building blocks it needs to rebuild your muscles and make them stronger.

When you add a variety of organic, lean protein sources to your diets, such as grass-fed beef, chicken, eggs, dairy, and beans, you will achieve your 1recommended daily protein intake.

Sometimes, eating sufficient amounts of protein can be difficult 

Using protein powders for your shakes is an excellent way to meet your complete protein needs.

Whatever your goals, be they to lose weight, gain muscle, or just improve your fitness, protein shakes can help your progress because they have so many benefits.

Protein shakes enhance recovery, support muscle gain, improve performance, help maintain muscle mass, reduce muscle loss, and assist you in your weight loss efforts.

Your overall daily protein intake is more important than if you have it before or after your workout

Generally speaking, for most people, consuming around 1.2-2g protein per kg of body weight per day is enough.

Being an excellent addition to the diet, they will greatly sustain your training and support muscle recovery.

Remember though, that protein shakes are there to help you supplement your diet to help you achieve your protein goals.

Whether you are having a pre-workout protein shake or a post-workout, it shouldn’t replace whole foods.

You need whole foods to get your body composition in the full spectrum of needed nutrients.

Protein is important, and you may need protein shakes as well to supplement your diet especially after physically demanding exercises like resistance exercise and muscle strength exercise.


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