When to Take Protein Shakes



There is loads of information out there about how valuable it is for athletes to supplement with protein shakes. Why are protein shakes so valuable to the fitness industry? Why a gritty shake over a nice chicken sandwich at the conclusion of a workout?

The Significance of a Protein Shake:

Studies have shown that protein taken in the form of a shake is significant in the fact that “protein digestion and absorption are more rapid in liquid state. For these digestive reasons, and for applying the data that is in the published literature, it is recommended that athletes ingest their protein in liquid form, if possible.”(Campbell, 4)

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When to Drink a Whey Protein Shake:

Timing is literally everything when it comes to whey protein. If you are going to spend money on protein supplements, it is wise to understand the importance of timing or all your efforts and hard earned dollars will be spent in vain.

Consume Whey Protein 1 hour prior to work-out: Research suggests that pre-workout protein shakes increase the availability of amino acids through enhanced blood flow caused by exercise. This aids in prevention and/or reduction of muscle breakdown during intense activity.

Consume Whey Protein and Carbohydrates within 30 minutes after working out: Within 30 minutes to an hour after working out the body has a muscle building and muscle sparing window where you can capitalize on optimal gains.(Brown, 6) According to registered dietician, Debra Wein, “eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes post-workout helps maximize muscle synthesis, muscle function, and decreases muscle breakdown. Consuming the right combination of carbohydrates to protein, in a 4:1 ratio, is associated with faster glycogen replenishment in the muscles, better muscle protein synthesis, reduced muscle soreness, and improved muscle strength and body composition.”

When to Drink a Casein Protein Shake:

Casein is often referred to as the “slow-acting” protein. Studies have shown that casein can sustain amino acid levels for a remarkable 7 hours. Therefore, it is most beneficial when taken during the day and especially at bedtime, and is often referred to as the “night time” protein. It also contains a different amino acid profile than whey protein. It is high in the amino acid glutamine which can be beneficial when the body is under high physiological stress, inhibiting muscle catabolism (the breakdown of protein). Because much of the repair process happens during sleep, having a nutrient source such as casein that feeds the muscles through the majority of the night is critical. Casein is also a good choice for meal replacement when used in conjunction with essential oils and carbohydrates.

Summing It Up:

Protein shakes are a great way to supplement a well balanced diet when additional protein is needed for maintaining muscle tissue. However, timing of protein intake is the most critical component of the recipe. Research also suggests combining protein with carbohydrate for optimal post-workout recovery. The window of opportunity for getting the most out of the supplement is small and needs to be followed meticulously. When all of your efforts in the gym, money spent, and exceptional discipline result in improved performance, that gritty shake will be much easier to swallow.

Brown, Kyle, CSCS. (Dec. 12, 2009). Post Workout Recovery Nutrition: It’s Not What You Digest But What You Absorb That Counts. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, volume 8, issues 6, 6-7. Retrieved on Nov. 4, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/Issues/PTJ0806.pdf

Casein Protein Information and Product List. Retieved on Nov. 3, 2011 from http://www.muscleandstrength.com/supplements/ingredients/casein-protein.html

Mohr, Christopher. (May 19, 2005). A Review of Pre-Workout Nutrition Protocols, and Ribose. Retrieved on December 1, 2011 from http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/mohr86.htm

Wein, Debra, MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, NSCA-CPT, *D. and Miraglia, Megan, MS, RD, LDN. (Downloaded Aug. 2, 2011 ). Whey Protein vs. Casein Protein and Optimal Recovery. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, vol. 10, issue 4, 14-15. Retrieved on Nov. 3, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/articles/100405.pdf

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"Any change requires an initial period of discomfort until the body adjusts to the new demand." - Author unknown

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