Protein shakes, which are typically made by mixing protein powder with water or some type of milk, are a convenient way to make sure you are getting enough protein and calories. But many people wonder when is the best time to have one.
There is a debate on the subject, so we asked a sports nutritionist and some registered dietitians to find out. (Spoiler alert: You do not need to hit a protein shake immediately after a workout.)
Protein is present in every human cell, so it is quite important. This is why they are referred to as the “building blocks” of life. Protein, which is made up of amino acids, helps your body repair cells and make new ones, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
People assigned to female at birth (AFAB) should aim for 46 grams of protein per day, and people assigned to male at birth (AMAB) should aim for 56 grams of protein per day, according to the USDA 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans .
One of the many benefits of protein shakes is that it makes it easier to meet these nutritional needs. And depending on your health goals and your choice of protein powder, protein shakes can be a useful and nutritious addition to your diet.
“Protein shakes can play a role in both weight loss and weight gain,” says sports nutritionist Marie Spano, RD, CSD. “If you’re trying to lose weight, protein is important for satiety and it helps ensure you keep muscle loss to a minimum. If you want to gain weight, the balance will tilt a bit to ensure you get enough protein so you can. more likely to gain muscle. “
So, when it’s the best time to take protein, the short answer is it depends. Taking protein immediately or shortly after a workout is a popular strategy known as protein timing, which is said to help build and repair muscle.
You burn calories and work out an appetite during a workout, so you will need to supplement afterwards. A protein shake is a quick and effective way to achieve this.
“For people who want to gain muscle mass, the recommended window for a protein shake is between 30 and 60 minutes after a workout,” says registered dietitian Juliana Tamayo, RDN. “It’s based on the idea of the anabolic window, or period after exercise when it is said that your body uses protein immediately to build muscle.”
But there is little evidence to support this. Studies have shown that the effects of protein intake immediately after a workout are inconsistent, according to a January 2013 review in theJournal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
“Nutrient timing (also known as the anabolic window) is a myth,” says Maddie Pasquariello, RD. “When you drink your shake, it doesn’t make a big difference when it comes to weight loss or muscle gain.”
Certainly, taking protein around exercise had no significant effect on increasing muscle strength, according to another December 2013 meta-analysis in theJournal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Rather, the researchers found that the amount of protein people ate was a more important factor.
So if you prefer a fasting workout, drink your protein shake afterwards. If you need something to keep you going through a workout, drink it beforehand. And of course, if you use protein shakes just to get more of the nutrients in your diet, make it work any time of the day that works best.
“You will not lose your training gains if you wait an hour or possibly even two hours after a workout before eating a protein-rich meal or shake,” says Spano. She recommends getting some protein within two hours of a workout.
When it comes to weight loss, Tamayo recommends a different strategy. “For those who want to lose fat, drinking a protein shake between meals can be a great way to stop hunger,” she says. It can help you maintain a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss.
Protein is a saturating nutrient, so having a protein shake can be a great way to combat cravings and hunger while helping to meet your protein needs.
“Protein shakes are often filling, but they are also absorbed more slowly, giving your body the signal to release leptin,” says Tamayo. “Leptin is the hormone that signals to your body that you are full.”
There is a lot of controversy about the best time to drink a protein shake. The anabolic window of 30 to 60 minutes after exercise, once considered the ideal time to take protein, may not be as important as we thought.
Although you do not have to chuckle your protein shake within minutes of your workout, you probably do not have to wait hours to build muscle. Your body will need more of the nutrients after exercise.
But if your goals are not gains, the best time to drink a protein shake is really up to you. “Protein should be fairly evenly spaced throughout the day for everyone, whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight or just maintain your health,” says Spano.
So, even though protein is pretty important, do not stress about missing the most suitable window when mixing up a shake. For most of us, how much protein we have in our daily diet matters more than when we have it.