What’s the best time to eat protein after a workout? If you’ve spent a lot of money on protein shake (and they are expensive!) then you probably want to make sure that you’re getting the most from your investment.
Problem is, protein timing is a somewhat complicated and hotly debated topic. Not ones to shy away though, let’s dive right in…
The ‘Anabolic Window’
Traditional broscience tells us that the best time to consume protein shake is immediately following a workout. The idea is that training causes metabolic stress which in turn triggers the release of key hormones like growth hormone and testosterone. These are ‘anabolic hormones’, meaning that the encourage the body to utilize protein in repairing tissue and building muscle.
Of course then, it only follows that you should want to consume protein around this time in order to maximize its use. The advice was therefore that you should aim to consume protein within one hour of having trained, before you find yourself less anabolic.
But then came the protests: food takes time to absorb and doesn’t immediately enter the blood stream. In fact, it takes around an hour in order for protein you consumed to become available to the body. Thus the ‘pre-workout’ shake actually seems to make more sense at least on the surface.
Then came the ‘intra-workout’ shake, which many argue is able to prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue that can occur due to a workout.
And by roughly the same reasoning, it would follow that consuming protein just before bed – especially a slow-release form of protein such as casein – would allow us to take advantage of the naturally occurring anabolic window that is sleep.
But then science happened.
What We Know
Look, some people still swear by taking a protein shake just before a workout. Others will still have their shake prepped and ready to go as soon as they finish. But the science just doesn’t back that up. According to the most recent research, protein timing actually has zero effect on muscle mass.
Likewise, the idea that you can only absorb so much protein in one sitting also appears to have been debunked. It’s now generally accepted that it is entirely up to you how and when you hit your macros – as long as you hit them.
Whether or not you choose to believe this is up to you. Nutritional research has a funny habit of proving and then disproving theories with regularity. What’s true one year is false the next. More research may yet change everyone’s minds so it is really what matters for you.
But it’s likely that protein timing won’t have much of an impact. What does seem to have an impact is when you consume carbs. Eat carbs after a workout and they will be rushed to your depleted glycogen stores and thus be less likely to get stored as fat.
Similarly, eating BCAAs during a workout is a good idea if you want to prevent muscle break-down intra-workout.
The rest is up to you.