When to Drink a Protein Shake
If you’re tuned into your nutrition, you may have wondered: What’s the best time to drink a protein shake? But…that’s not really the question you should be asking.
Despite the focus on the “perfect” time to consume protein, how much you consume is more important than when, according to researchers. We metabolize proteins in our bodies over a period of time, so as long as you are eating enough overall spread across each day, there is a “pool” to use whenever you need it.
However, if you’re looking to get stronger and build muscle, you should pay some attention to timing. Here’s a look a how to incorporate protein shakes into your diet in a way that can help you reach your goals.
Is There a “Perfect Time” to Consume Protein Shakes?
Not exactly. And that’s mostly because not all protein shakes are the same. More specifically, not all protein sources are the same. Some will be absorbed by your body more quickly, while others work more slowly and help keep you satiated for longer.
If you’re making a protein shake with LADDER Plant-Based Nutrition Shake, you’ll get 20 grams of pea protein, which absorbs at a medium rate. That, plus the seven grams of fiber and other essential nutrients, will help you stay fuller for longer. This makes it a great shake to have as part of a breakfast, snack, or even dessert.
But if you’re talking about a post-workout formula like LADDER Whey Protein, you’ll find 26 grams of whey protein isolate, an easily digestible, fast-releasing protein. This is best to consume after a workout so you can quickly supply your muscles with protein to help them repair and rebuild.
You should consume protein throughout the day, but you definitely want to make sure you get some into your system after a workout. During a strength-training session, you cause microscopic damage to your muscles. That might sound like a bad thing, but that “micro-damage” is what triggers muscle repair and growth. In short, without it, you wouldn’t grow stronger! But your body needs protein to help with that rebuilding process, so a post-workout protein shake can come in handy.
The muscle-fueling effect of food can last up to a few hours, but drinking a protein shake within a half hour of working out is a good idea. It makes sure your muscles have the amino acids they need when they need them most.
When it comes to workout performance and recovery, drinking protein shakes after a workout is typically better for the reasons explained above. Plus, timing your protein too close to your workout can be counterproductive. After all, you don’t need protein before working out, says Denis Faye, M.S., Openfit executive director of nutrition.
“If anything, you want to enter a workout with your food mostly digested because digestion can interfere with your workout,” says Faye. “Some people like BCAAs [branched-chain amino acids] pre-workout, which are technically protein.”
Those are fine, he says, “because they’re usually in a fast-absorbing drink that doesn’t take much effort to digest, so it doesn’t interfere with your workout.”
Why You Need Protein (at any time)
Protein is one of the three main macronutrients along with carbohydrates and fat. You need all three of these things to have a well-rounded diet. Protein helps your body with the several functions, including:
- Muscle synthesis
- Tissue repair
- Building and maintaining strong bones
You can get protein from animal products, like meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, or plant products, like tofu, edamame, beans, and nuts. You can also consume protein in shake form. Some common sources of protein in shakes are whey, casein, pea, and hemp.
It can be super convenient to get some of your protein from a shake, because you don’t have to worry about cooking or preparing it, and it’s easy to take on the go. Supplementing your diet with a protein shake (in addition to other whole foods) can help you keep your body fueled up properly, no matter how busy your schedule is or how much you hate to cook.
Don’t Forget the Other Macros
Don’t sacrifice any other food groups or essential macronutrients to make way for protein, as you need plenty of fiber, carbs, and healthy fats.
The Bottom Line
Follow these three guidelines when it comes to protein:
- Consume protein within a half an hour of working out to make sure your body has enough to help optimize your recovery.
- Try to eat protein at every meal to make sure your getting an adequate amount each day to meet your goals.
- Make sure you are also getting other nutrients (like carbs, good fats, and fiber) to fuel your performance and support your overall health.