A hot topic in the fitness world is, “Should I drink a pre-workout or post-workout protein shake?”. There are many people out there that swear by one or the other and some choose both.
The problem with those answers is that it isn’t simply a once-size-fits-all approach.
Depending on your goals and what you’re striving for when working out, your situation changes and the way someone suggests may not be the best time for you to take a protein supplement.
I’ll explain the benefits of when to take a pre-workout and post-workout protein shake.
A Pre Workout or Post Workout Protein Shake?
In today’s fitness world, most people tend to recommend a post-workout shake if you had to choose.
Well, the idea is that taking a protein shake as soon as your workout completes begins the protein synthesis process. Your body is in prime condition for accepting nutrients after an intense workout and a fast acting protein like whey can be quickly digested and delivered to your muscles in as little as 20 minutes. This quick absorption of protein into your muscles allows growth and repair to occur quickly and increases your muscle gains.
But, everyone has it all backwards…
A pre-workout shake can be more effective if I had to choose one or the other. In fact, 9 times out of 10 I would choose a pre-workout protein supplement over a post workout protein supplement. Now before you start to think I am crazy for going against the mainstream on this just hear me out.
By taking a protein supplement prior to working out you start protein synthesis while working out and don’t experience a delay from taking a post-workout protein supplement. In addition, a pre-workout protein supplement can help you burn more calories. A study that was published in the Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise found that one scoop of whey protein taken prior to working out had increased overall calories burned throughout a 24 hour period.
When you take a pre-workout protein supplement you experience a carryover effect. When taking protein your body’s protein synthesis can last up to 3 hours. This will help you essentially ‘double-dip’ the benefits protein supplements provide as your protein synthesis will carryover past your workout. You can also expect less muscle breakdown due to the reduction of the muscle-breakdown hormone called cortisol. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found out that starting your nutrition 30 minutes prior to working out with a protein and carbohydrate shake had led to a significant reduction in cortisol up to 24 hours after the workout session.
It Depends on Your Goals
As far as the optimal time for taking protein supplements, it all depends on what you’re currently working out towards. Keep in mind these recommendations are if you’re only planning on taking a protein supplement without any additional supplements.
Building Muscle – I recommend taking a BCAA Supplement pre-workout. Post workout, take whey protein in a high calorie shake. (opt for high carb and high protein in your shake) Or if you prefer, have a protein/carb dense meal and wash it down with a whey protein shake.
What I Do
When I am trying to lower my body fat percentage and burn fat I take a BCAA supplement pre-workout and a protein supplement post-workout. I take a BCAA supplement to get the specific amino acids in protein that prevent the breakdown of muscle during my workouts since I am on a calorie deficit. When losing weight, it is easy to lose muscle if you’re not careful in your diet. By incorporating BCAA’s into my diet prior to working out I give my body the amino acids it needs without any substantial increase in calories. I highly recommend you do the same.
When I am trying to bulk up, I take a BCAA supplement pre-workout along with a pre-workout concentrate. For post-workout, I’ll take a double serving of whey protein in 12-16oz of 1% milk. This gives me a huge boost in protein for the day along with extra calories to make sure I am in a calorie surplus.
Which do you prefer: A pre-workout or post-workout protein shake or both and why?