man drinking a protein shake listening to music through his phone

When is the best time to have a protein shake?

Protein shakes are very popular supplement options, especially for those hoping to boost muscle growth and their overall performance when they exercise. While mixing some powder with water or milk may seem like a relatively straightforward process, there’s actually a bit of science behind exactly when you should drink your protein shake.

When should I take my protein shake?

The best time to take your protein shake will largely depend on what type of protein it contains. There are numerous different protein powders out there, some of which contain protein-rich dairy products and others which are completely plant-based and suitable for vegans.

Common protein powders include:

  • Whey protein

  • Soya protein

  • Hemp protein

  • Pea protein

  • Casein protein
Another factor which may determine exactly when you decide to have your protein shake is your overall goal. Are you looking to lose weight or build up muscle? Most either drink a protein shake before or after a workout, however there are benefits and downsides to both1.

Taking a protein shake before exercise

There are many benefits to drinking a protein shake before you work out, including the obvious reason that it’ll give you a boost of energy. Depending on the type of protein it contains, it could also stimulate your cells to begin the process of building up muscle mass and help reduce the likelihood of muscle damage or fatigue when you start exercising2. If you’re trying to build up muscle, it’s important that you also eat before you work out. If you exercise on a protein shake alone, your body might start to burn muscle instead of fat. Low GI carbs like lentils and oats are best as they release energy at a slower rate, allowing you to exercise for longer3. In comparison, people trying to lose weight may also want to have a protein shake before they exercise. Protein is a big contributor to fat loss as it’s able to keep the body feeling fuller for longer and may help increase your metabolism4.

Taking a protein shake after exercise

Many people prefer to drink their protein shakes immediately after a workout. This is because you can burn protein when you exercise and may have depleted your body’s stock of it that’s been gained naturally through food.

Some types of protein, such as whey protein, are also thought to help repair any muscle tissue that’s been damaged during exercise5. What’s more, many studies show that post workout is when your muscles are able to absorb the most amount of protein6. If you’re looking to gain more muscle mass, having a protein shake after you hit the gym is a no-brainer.

What about protein snacks?

As well as drinking a protein shake as part of your exercise routine, you may also want to consider eating some protein-rich snacks. These can help you stave off hunger pangs for longer if you’re trying to lose weight and also boost your protein levels if you’re hoping to improve the strength and size of your muscles7.

As you should be able to get enough protein from your diet alone, it’s important that you follow instructions on packets properly if you decide to take a supplement such as a protein powder. If you’re ever unsure about whether a product is right for you, speak to one of our nutrition specialists in store or to a medical professional.

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Last updated: 7 May 2020