Pre or Post Workout: When Should You Take Whey Protein?

when to take whey protein

Many people who are into taking protein powders wonder about when is the best time to take their protein – morning or night; maybe even the middle of the day.

People come up with their own reasons when the best time is [1].

After all, they want to get the most out of their protein.

They believe that what time they take it during the day might impact their fitness goals and their muscle building and repair.

 In actual fact, this commonly asked question has no definite answer

The best time to take protein will really depend on you and your health and end goals.

If you’re drinking a protein shake to lose weight, you might drink your shake at a different time than someone who is aiming to build muscle mass, for instance.

To determine the best time to drink your protein shake, you first need to consider whether you want to focus on muscle building – maybe you are looking to lose weight.

Once you pinpoint what it is that you want to achieve, you can use the information below to figure out when you believe you should drink your protein shake.

Look what these guys say…

Peter Parasiliti, one health expert, answers the question with this – Drink your protein powder or shake within an hour after your workout.

Because he says, the muscles are more receptive then.

This is when it’s time to feed the muscles and give them the fuel needed to recover and repair.

This will lead to faster growth.

And if you are aiming to prime yourself before a workout, don’t rely on powder, says another expert, Scott Baptie.

But read what all these guys have to say about protein powders and some mistakes you might be included in your workouts and which you would want to fix.

Baptie recommends a delicious rustic spinach and pepper omelet, that he says will give you plenty of fuel for your muscle-building session.

Right, let’s look at the timings of the day and see how it benefits you; to help you decide when the best time is for you…

The Best Time to Take Whey Protein (If You Want Maximum Results)

1) Taking your protein in the morning benefits

Have you ever heard of catabolism?

Well, it’s the metabolic pathways – these break down molecules into much smaller units to become oxidized so that they can release energy.

Or they will be used for other anabolic reactions [2].

That’s putting it simply. Most athletes know about catabolism as it is quite common in athletic circles.

It’s when you over-train and don’t eat enough.

Your body needs a good food source of energy. When it has got none to draw on, it starts to use the muscles as fuel.

That’s not good news or good things that happen to athletes.

One study from 2006 showed that when you have protein in the morning, you increased your strength plus overall muscle mass [3].

You don’t have to be worried about bulking up after your breakfast shake unless you had a whole lot of carbs as well.

Maybe you are on a fitness regime that is designed to help you build muscle.

But it’s not likely you are going to bulk up after having a protein shake for breakfast.

2) Taking your protein during the day

You know that feeling all too often when you find yourself nodding off at your desk at the office – and it’s only in the middle of the day. 

The reason could well be that your diet doesn’t consist of food that gives you long-lasting energy.

The body gets most of its energy from the food we eat.

That means failing to eat a balanced diet or even skipping meals can lead to a lack of energy and poor nutrition, plus fatigue.

You could try and split the three main meals of the day into five smaller ones.

Then you could eat every 3 hours rather.

You would need to see that each of your 5 meals contains protein.

You could easily have a protein shake at this time for the energy. Or you could enjoy a tin of tuna or a handful of nuts.

3) Having your protein before you start training

Lots of protein powders contain high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s).

These you will always find in protein powders as they help so much to maintain muscle glycogen stores [4].

Glycogen provides energy to the body.

Take a pre-workout snack in the form of a protein shake, plus some complex carbohydrates like oats or brown rice 45 minutes before you start training.

This can supply you with the energy to go harder in your workouts.

4) Taking your protein after training

Studies show that after training, your muscles are tired – They are crying out for amino acids. At this stage, they are more likely to absorb the protein that they drink afterward [5].

The benefits of a post-workout protein intake for muscle growth and recovery are well documented.

You give your muscles the fuel they need to recover after your workout by consuming protein.

]The University of Tampa did a study in 2013 – studied how effective brown rice protein vs whey protein was in helping recovery after exercises.

The study reported that there were no differences between the protein types [6].

Whey does contain lactose, though, so it will not be suitable for dairy intolerant people.

Hemp in this instance would be an ideal post-workout protein.

5) Taking protein powder before bedtime

One study completed in 2012 by the Maastricht University in the Netherlands reported that if you take protein supplements directly before bedtime, it gets digested or used up by your muscles while you are sleeping [7].

Your muscles were boosted overnight with muscle growth and recovery.

Drinking protein in the evening extends muscle protein synthesis (MPS), keeping the body at a positive protein balance. 

In order to achieve optimal muscle gain for your body, you must have a positive protein balance

When your body is deficient in amino acids from eating poorly or putting a lot of stress on from for example your lifestyle and exercising, your body will have a negative muscle balance.

It’s the state of your body slowly losing muscle tissue.

But when you eat high protein foods and protein shakes, you bring your body back to a muscle balance that is positive.

Just simply drinking extra protein, though, won’t build muscles.

Only when you pair your protein consumption with resistance-training programs and adequate rest and nutritious foods, do you stimulate muscle maintenance and growth.

How much should the recommended protein be? 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans which is produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that 10-34% of the average adult’s total daily intake should be protein.

So if you consume 2000 calories a day 200 to 700 calories should consist of protein. If you are a sedentary person, you don’t need to consume huge amounts of protein.

An active person, on the other hand, someone who is trying to build muscle, will need to consume between .7 to 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

The best types of protein

The best types of protein would be casein, whey, rice, pea, and soy.

Always choose a high-quality protein powder, one that is vegetarian-based and fermented.

Lots of people react to lactose and whey in the traditional protein powders and the plant-based ones are becoming extremely sought after in the health and fitness world today.

Is your sleep disrupted by taking a protein shake at night?

There are no reports that protein powders disrupt sleep.

If it is a protein powder that contains a lot of sugar, this could delay your sleeping time because of the sugar rush.

If you want to prevent this, drink the low-sugar protein shakes instead.

How many shakes during the day are OK?

If you are struggling to get enough protein in your diet, then supplementing with shakes is fine if it’s a healthy shake.

Remember, though, that the amount of protein you need each day will depend on your activity levels, weight, height, and gender.

Can you have too much protein? 

There is a limit to how much protein you should be consuming. You should generally not eat more than 2 grams of protein per pound of your body weight.

If you are someone who weighs 150 pounds, then you shouldn’t eat more than 300 grams of protein.

When you over-eat protein, you can put on weight and suffer from kidney damage, heart disease, calcium loss, and an increased risk of cancer and raised cholesterol [8].

The best foods for muscle growth

When you are trying to strengthen and grow your muscles, high protein foods are essential.

The easiest way to gain muscle is to be in a slight caloric surplus; consuming more calories than your body burns.

Besides protein powders, you should also eat foods like lean meat, Greek yogurt, fish, lentils, tofu, beans, and nuts.


If you’re looking to build muscle quickly and shrink your recovery time, and have plenty of energy, then it won’t be hard to beat a decent protein shake – whether you choose vegan or whey.

We have seen from research that supplementing with protein, as part of your resistance training program, will help you maintain lean body mass as well as increase your strength.

Always remember, with a lot of intake of protein such as from protein shakes, comes responsibility as well.

Taking protein supplements isn’t a catch-all solution for adding mass quickly.

It doesn’t work quite like that. Protein powders are a convenient way of increasing your protein intake on a daily basis.

For some, it is a solution to curbing a sweet tooth and for others, to lose weight.

One study from the University of Montreal found that some professional athletes did not improve their performance or recovery because they didn’t know how to use them properly.

Be responsible, use them as you should, and take them when you know they are right for you, and you will reap the rewards.