You have seen the latest fitness gimmick- PROTEIN SHAKE. And now you want to try it. But what is a protein shake? Are protein shakes good for you? Are they enough for you? Should you drink a protein shake before or after a workout? It won’t be unusual if your mind is bombarded with these questions.
After all, all the trainers and celebrities have been taking these muscle growing supplements for some time now, and they all received definitive results from drinking protein shakes.
This brings us to THE question of the hour- should you have a protein shake before or after workout. This has always been a heated topic for debates. Well, to answer your question you will have to understand what it is, when you need it, and how it will affect you in accordance to your fitness goals and training program.
So, without any further ado, let’s address the elephant in the room- How does drinking protein shake before or after workout contrast to each other?
Protein shake before or after workout – which is more effective?
To know and find the best outcome for this dilemma, we will have to jump deeper into the root. You will have to understand the fundamentals- why we take it, when we should take it and how we take it?
Protein is a vital part of our daily caloric needs and also the building block of our muscles, kind of like how cells are the building blocks of all living things.
However, proteins come in a limited amount in natural foods. They also come with other nutrients that you may want to avoid like fat and certain minerals. Not to mention the additional calories all these foods pack. It can be both- good and bad, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.
While working out, we constantly subject stress and force on our muscles, and ultimately the muscle fibers get micro-tears. Which, in turn, gets fused with one another to form a more prominent single tissue, and this is how muscle hypertrophy is achieved.
So, to make the whole muscle building process efficient for professionals, and regular folks like you and me, protein shake was formulated. This way, you get to meet the right amount of protein intake daily to meet your fitness demands without while incorporating more muscle-building components without any extra, unnecessary nutrients to worry about.
Now for the main reason you are here- if you should drink a protein shake before or after workout session. There have been many theories regarding the matter, and it is safe to say that you can drink it both before and after since they both showed results.
So, basically, the frequency of protein intake, and when you take it does affect to some extent. But the total protein intake in a day is the biggest factor. There are arguments for drinking a protein shake before workout, the logic behind the idea is merely restocking on protein shake and carbohydrate to help repair the muscles and make up for depleted levels of glycogen.
There is also a counter-argument for this. Exercising in a fasted state will burn the most amount of calories, and the work done on your muscles will be greater as well. Moreover, because of a phenomenon called the ‘anabolic window,’ your muscles are open to absorbing all the protein it can get after the workout session has commenced.
There are also benefits you can hope to reap from drinking protein shakes during workout. As I said, it all depends on your needs and goals and body type.
To help you better understand if you should drink protein shake before or after, I will narrow down the pros & cons of drinking a protein shake before and after workout, so you can JUDGE better.
What happens when you drink Protein Shake before a workout?
After an intense workout session, you will experience what we call a- ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness,’ aka DOMS. So the more protein you will have, the faster you will recover, since one of the primary functions of protein is repairing damaged muscle tissues. But gathering JUST the right amount of protein from food alone is a bit tough, and you can also lose track of calorie intake.
As I discussed earlier, drinking a protein shake before workout has differing effects from drinking it afterward. Here are a few benefits of taking protein before workout.
Recent studies suggest that drinking a protein shake before workout will add to your already stored glycogen stock and pump your muscles to really drive up the intensity. This works by taking the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and spreading it throughout your body via the bloodstream.
Increased Protein Synthesis
Most protein sources promote the synthesis of your muscles, however only the essential amino acids can really skyrocket that rate. So drinking BCAA rich shakes before workout will kickstart the whole synthesizing process WHILE you workout. It is said to last a whopping 3 hours minimum.
A study conducted by Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that 1 scoop of whey protein powder will keep the elevated metabolism going for the next 24 hours if you drink a protein shake before exercise.
In case you are worried about muscle loss, then rest assured, having an increased metabolism rate will definitely help your muscles get toned but not enough to turn you into a featherweight.
PRO TIP: If you are on a low carb diet, you can use a whey protein shake to fuel your drills.
Another PRO TIP: Take in your protein shake 15- 30 minutes before training.
Faster Recovery from workouts
Sipping on your shake before workout will not only help you amp up your muscle recovery rate, but the muscle breakdown that follows after rigorous sessions are said to be lowered since the muscle synthesis starts during the circuit.
Balanced blood circulation during workout
We all know that we get a pump in our muscles when we workout. What we don’t know is how and where the increased blood flow to our stimulated muscles come from.
Fundamentally, when we start engaging specific muscle groups, our brain signals to divert the blood flow to our digestive system(aka splanchnic circulatory system) to the said muscles. According to livestrong , your digestion stops entirely when your brain diverts the blood circulation from your digestive system to your enagged muscles.
What happens when you drink Protein Shake after workout?
According to NCBI, there is a 30 minute period after a workout for your muscles to absorb the most protein to maximize muscle yield.
However, a new study suggests that the ‘anabolic window’ lasts much longer, and you definitely should drink the right amount based on your bodyweight.
Reinforced Fat Loss Effects
When you are taking in enough protein after workout, your muscle tissues come back stronger and denser. Meaning you are metabolically active because of the increased muscle mass.
Moreover, working out in a fasted state uses up all your glycogen and starts burning through your reserved fat and muscles if you end up spending too much out of your fat reserves. So when you drink a shake after a workout, your fatigued muscles soak it all up and start working on making the next batch of your muscle tissues.
Prevents Gastric Distress During Exercise
As mentioned above, when we work out, the blood gets directed from your digestion, aiding organs and to your muscles that are being worked. So if you take a protein shake before workout, you will not get the full efficiency in digesting or pumping up your muscles.
So, if you drink a protein shake after the gym, then you do not have to worry about slowed down digestion. Plus, your fatigued muscles will be hungry for some protein shake by the time you are done exercising in a fasted state.
What Protein Shakes should I drink for the best results?
1. Whey Protein Shake
This is the go-to protein shake for all the fitness geeks. Starting from Athletes, Actors, Body Builders, and your average gym-goer.
Whey protein is extracted in liquid form during cheese making, and it is of the highest quality protein and contains all the amino acids.
This Hefty ALL FATHER of proteins comes in 3 different forms- whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate.
2. Casein Protein Shake
This is the second most popular form of protein shake, and this too is dairy-based, much like its more popular counterpart.
Casein protein comes with abundant benefits. The major one is its slow-digesting attribute, meaning it will spread low amounts of amino acid over your muscles, but throughout a more extended period compared to the other available alternatives. It is said to be more efficient at improving your MPS and building strength than other protein powders.
3. Egg Protein Shake
We all know eggs are at the pinnacle of easy protein fixes and definitely a favorite for individuals with a dairy allergy. But most of us don’t know or remember the exact details about egg proteins how much to take, or if we should avoid it for its gooey yolk, which is known to deposit cholesterol.
But in this day of technological innovation, we can easily extract the healthy egg whites and process it into powdered form, which we whip up and use it as a protein shake. Out of all the protein powders, the egg comes with the highest digestibility score and also great for reducing appetite.
PRO TIP: Whip up your own egg shake by removing the yolk and whisking the egg white.
4. Pea Protein Shake
This is every vegan’s go-to protein shake. Also great if you are allergic to dairy or eggs. It’s animal cruelty-free and comes packed with all amino acids except for one.
Pea protein powder is made from high-fiber legumes and yellow split peas. A great trait of pea protein is its ability to lower and regulate high blood pressure. More research needs to be done to see if it can be even more beneficial to us than the alternatives.
5. Hemp Protein Shake
Hemp protein powder is derived from the controversial plant. Don’t let that scare you off. This protein source does contain traces of the psychoactive component-THC but not enough to get your eyes red and your body high.
Some of the benefits you can hope to achieve from the green hemp protein smoothies are essential omega-3 fatty acids, several essential amino acids, along with high fiber intake. Plus, it’s an excellent protein source for vegans.
There is a catch though. Hemp protein is not considered to be a complete protein since it has comparatively low levels of amino acid. Just like the pea and egg counterpart, this too needs more research to truly explore the properties and benefits we can hope to siphon from hemp.
Drinking a protein shake before and after workout have their fair share of benefits. After seeing all the researches that were carried out, and the overall result yielded from both drinking before and after are both very close. Do whichever goes with your routine best.
What truly matters is how often should you drink a protein shake? According to the US RDA, a minimum of 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight should be consumed or more if you want to promote muscle growth.
Other researchers conclude that the number of protein ingested is a more significant factor rather than WHEN you take it. What truly matters is taking in your required amount of protein and macros to reap the most benefits.
Nevertheless, the effects of protein shake before and after workout will definitely be contrasting. In fact, there are opposing researches supporting both. This is because there are different applications for differing intake. Kind of like how you would not have a heavy meal right before sleeping.
So shake your protein and start drinking it whenever it suits best with you. Let me know how your experience went with your timing and if you have any questions regarding the article or any fitness related topic, please feel free to let me know.