When is the best time to take protein? This is one hotly-debated topic, but this article will give you all the facts, debunk the myths and help you navigate this tricky question in the way that best suits you.
We’ll get straight into it; the bottom line is that it doesn’t necessarily matter as much as you might think precisely when you take your protein powder.
Bear with us, here’s the context:
The ‘Anabolic Window’
It has long been believed that taking a protein shake within 30 minutes of a workout will deliver the best results in terms of muscle growth and repair. Any protein consumed outside this ‘anabolic window’ was, therefore, thought not to be utilised as effectively by the body for building muscle.
However, research revisiting this hotly-debated topic has now suggested that this period may actually be longer than just 30 minutes, and may not even be limited only to post-workout timing. In other words, taking your protein shake before your workout as opposed to afterwards may not make any difference in terms of effectiveness. This leaves you free to choose the timing that suits you best.
Remember, though, this refers to protein supplements only. There are some performance-enhancing supplements, such as caffeine, which do need to be taken in specific time windows in order to be effective, but that’s another topic for another time.
Let’s get back to protein.
When to take protein vs. how much to take in a day
Rather than thinking about when to use protein powder, it may be more important to focus more on how much protein to take in total throughout the day. Nutritional study research findings now indicate that, rather than focusing on specific timings for consuming protein, it is more important to focus on consuming the optimum amount of protein throughout the day as a whole.
If you are meeting your protein needs throughout the day according to your body type and activity levels, this is generally more important than timings. There are some exceptions to this rule, however, including elite athletes and serious sportspersons who train several times per day, who may benefit more from timed protein intakes between workouts to maximise body replenishment. Your nutritionist will be able to advise further on this if you are unsure.
Pre or post-workout
To date, there has only been one official study comparing the effects of pre-workout and post-workout protein consumption, though the findings were surprising. The study split 21 men into two groups, one of which took protein immediately prior to their workouts while the other group took their protein immediately afterwards.
Both groups performed identical workouts three times a week for 10 weeks, and the results showed no significant difference in muscle size or strength between the two groups. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily matter precisely when you take your protein; you can simply take it whenever it suits you.
Note: While studies indicate there is no ‘magic moment’ at which to take your protein, our nutritionists recommend elite athletes take it immediately before, during or immediately after training.
This may all come as a bit of a surprise to you, however, it is all good news when you think about it. It means you can stop worrying about when to take protein, and instead concentrate on enjoying your protein intake as a natural part of your fitness regime, whenever you like!
And, remember, your intake of whey protein powder isn’t limited just to protein shakes. You can add protein powder to all kinds of other delicious snacks and meals to eat all throughout the day, including protein bars, oats, pancakes, brownies, smoothies and cakes. Check out our whey protein recipes collection to get lots of inspiration.