Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance and smoothie is a great way to supplement it, as it is extremely convenient and practical to use.
It is therefore no mystery why they are so popular with gym lovers. However, most people are still unsure whether to take their protein shake before or after their workout.
This article explains how protein shakes work and what is the best time to take them to reach all your training goals.
Should you drink protein before or after a workout?
Protein is essential for helping muscle growth and recovery after a hard workout, so it makes sense that you want to plan your protein around your workout, but when is the best time to take a protein shake?
Before you consider the best time to take your protein shake, whether it's before or after your workout, be sure to put your priorities in order.
You must first think about the big picture and calculate the amount of protein you need each day. If you are short of your daily protein intake, then the time you are consuming your smoothie becomes largely irrelevant.
A range of 1,8 to 2,2 g of protein per kg of body weight will be fine for most people who have body composition goals. The consideration you need to make here is whether you have to be in an excess of calories to build muscle or a calorie deficit to lose fat.
Pre-Workout Protein Shakes:
When doing endurance work, the goal is often to grow lean muscle mass or to lose body fat while maintaining the muscle you already have. It can vary from person to person how far they want to push their body - from a lean, toned appearance to a bodybuilder physique.
The only goal is to maintain muscle mass. For this, you need protein. This is because the muscles get damaged when you exercise. While protein won't prevent the pain caused by training, it can provide the building blocks - amino acids - to help you recover.5
Ideally, you need protein to be in your system a few hours before training. Amino acids can help you encourage something known as "muscle protein synthesis" (MPS). This is a signal that tells the body to grow and recover. Depending on the type you eat, protein digestion rates will vary. A large steak might take a few hours to break, while the amino acids derived from a whey protein whey might already be available in about an hour. 4
How do you know if a pre-workout protein shake is right for you? If you don't like working out on a full stomach, but don't want to train on an empty stomach, consuming a smoothie before your workout might be a good idea. Pre-workout shakes are a convenient way to soak up protein, about an hour before your workout, without having to worry about feeling full and bloated during your workout.
Another good reason to take a pre-workout protein shake could be to work out early in the morning, or during your lunch break and simply not have time to eat before your workout.
The main reason for consuming a pre-workout shake is that it is convenient for your lifestyle, as you are looking to add protein to your daily intake and to help achieve your health and fitness goals.
Once a pre-workout protein shake is consumed, the amino acids present in the protein will be available in the bloodstream during and immediately after training to help the body build and repair muscle tissue. 7
Post workout smoothies:
There is a popular term in bodybuilding and fitness circles called the "anabolic window". The anabolic window is a 30 minute time frame after weight training in which protein intake promotes greater muscle growth. 8
The anabolic window is just a myth, but that doesn't mean a post-workout protein shake can't be extremely useful for your training program. 8
Hard training is very stressful for the body and what your body needs next is high quality protein to help rebuild and repair the damage that has been caused. One of the benefits of consuming a post workout smoothie is to use a high quality protein source to fuel the anabolic process in your body. Your body needs both decent quantity and quality to perform at its best.
This is because, depending on the type of smoothie, the protein could be readily available and quickly used to build muscle rather than waiting for a solid meal to digest.
A post workout protein shake might have some important benefits. Depending on the source, they often have a high bioavailability. This means that protein is used very well in the body compared to that from a different source, such as solid food.
What are the most recommended proteins?
Whey protein is the most bioavailable protein on the market - beating both solid foods and other protein supplements. When a protein has a high bioavailability, it means that it is absorbed and used very efficiently in the body. Whey protein has a bioavailability between 90% and 100%, so it is superior when compared to other affordable protein sources.4
There is also a time advantage in using whey protein. Alternative proteins, such as casein, digest at a much slower rate. If you don't have time to eat a quick meal, you are not wrong with whey. 4 Also, whey protein mixed with milk acts more like casein protein and slows down the rate of digestion.
So, should the protein shake be taken before or after training?
The answer is that it really depends on you. It depends on personal preference and whether or not to incorporate protein into the diet.
A study by Schoenfeld looked at this from a scientific point of view and concluded that there is no substantial difference between eating protein shakes before or after a workout.7
There is only one rule to follow: make sure you are getting good quality protein. Are you wondering, how long before or after training should you consume your protein shake? Well, this depends on the type of protein you consume. The general guidelines are 1 to 3 hours before training and 1 to 2 hours after training. 3
Before you think about whether it is best for you to take a protein shake before or after your workout, make sure you are getting enough total protein in your diet each day. About 2g of protein per kg of body weight each day will be fine for most people.
Whey is considered the best option for a pre or post workout smoothie. A pre-workout shake can be taken an hour or two before your workout, depending on your personal digestion rates. A post-workout shake can be taken any useful time after your workout, preferably within an hour.
There is therefore no definitive answer to the question. Choose the moment that best suits your lifestyle and preferences.
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you are concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or making major changes to your diet.