Maximizing Muscle Gain: The Best Time to Consume Protein Shakes

by Mara Welty January 28, 2024 7 min read

 Maximizing Muscle Gain

Maintaining and building muscle is essential to your overall health. Not only does it make you stronger, but it can also help to keep your bones healthy, support nutrient absorption, maintain healthy blood sugar levels and boost heart health.

To fortify your muscle cells, high-intensity exercise can work wonders, especially when paired with increased protein intake. Protein plays a crucial role in muscle development, maintenance and function, and experts recommend eating more than 0.5 to 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

All that said, protein shake consumption provides a convenient way to meet your protein goals, whether you’re on the go or at the gym. The best time for protein shakes will depend on your personal fitness goals and preferences, however. Let’s explore the benefits and downsides of each.

The Science Behind Muscle Gains

Before diving into the best time for protein shakes, let’s first understand the mechanisms behind building muscle. Muscle gain, also known as muscular hypertrophy, occurs primarily through resistance training, which can include:

  • Free weights
  • Medicine balls or sand bags
  • Weight machines
  • Resistance bands
  • Suspension equipment

During this type of exercise, skeletal muscles — which are the most adaptable tissues within the human body — undergo trauma. The muscle fibers stretch and tear, causing injury. In response to this muscle breakdown, the hormone hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) triggers satellite cells outside of the muscle fibers to flock to the site. The satellite cells fuse to each other and the damaged muscle fibers in an effort to repair the tears. In effect, this form of muscle repair causes muscular growth. Several additional hormones assist in this process, too:

  • Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) – Helps to form new blood capillaries during muscle repair
  • Insulin – Stimulates muscle growth by enhancing protein synthesis
  • Growth hormone – Triggers fat metabolism to generate the energy needed to grow the muscles and helps amino acids form into proteins
  • Testosterone – Stimulates tissue growth and enhances amino acid uptake and protein synthesis within skeletal muscles

The process of muscular hypertrophy can persist anywhere from several weeks to a couple of months. Accordingly, it may take some time for you to experience noticeable results. Studies do show, however, that protein synthesis typically occurs two to four hours following any duration of resistance exercise.

All that said, dietary protein consumption plays a critical role in muscular hypertrophy by way of:

  • Supplying amino acids – Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Thus, consuming an adequate amount of protein-rich foods can help facilitate protein synthesis and support the reconstruction of muscle fibers after exercise.
  • Facilitating muscle protein synthesis – Following high-intensity resistance exercise, the body can experience a breakdown in muscle protein. Dietary protein helps to replenish the body to repair damaged muscle tissue.
  • Signaling leucine – Leucine, an essential amino acid found in protein-rich foods, plays a crucial role in activating anabolic signaling pathways. These pathways are involved in the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. High-quality protein sources, such as whey protein, are often rich in leucine.
  • Maintaining muscle function – Dietary protein consumption is essential in allowing muscles to properly contract and relax

When you use force to contract a muscle when you’re, say, lifting a weight, the muscle’s motor units (the muscle fiber-nerve connections) pull the muscle fibers together until they can no longer sustain the weight, leading to “muscle failure.” With sufficient tension, the motor units can even become displaced, leading to what’s called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Protein plays a critical role here, too, helping to synthesize new muscle tissue and regenerate the motor units. 

The Best Time to Incorporate Protein

The best time for protein shake consumption is largely up for debate for researchers and fitness enthusiasts alike. 

Some believe that the most gains can be made when drinking a protein shake following a workout. This theory relies largely on the “anabolic window,” a term used to describe the period following exercise —typically 30 minutes — in which the muscles are in the process of repairing themselves.

Accordingly, following this theory, it may be most beneficial to drink a protein shake within a half hour of finishing a workout. This may help to:

  • Increase protein synthesis
  • Reduce muscle protein breakdown
  • Provide energy to the muscles

However, other studies claim that drinking a protein shake before a workout may be equally beneficial. This can provide your muscles with amino acids as a source of energy during the workout.

One study, operated by Hoffman et al,  challenges the idea that protein timing matters at all. The researchers gathered 33 strength-trained adult men. One group consumed a protein supplement before and after a workout, another group consumed a protein supplement in the morning and evening, and the other — the control group — did not have a protein supplement. 

The results found that both groups who consumed protein at some point during the day experienced similar increases in muscle strength after 10 weeks of resistance training. The control group did not see an improvement. 

Conversely, another study that observed the differences in a group of men consuming pre- and post-workout, compared to morning and evening, determined that timing is crucial. The former group experienced increased lean muscle mass and decreased body fat. Additionally, while both groups increased muscle strength, the group that supplemented their workouts saw greater gains.

The first research group — Hoffman et al — then observed 15 strength-trained men. One group received protein supplementation pre- and post-workout, and the other received a placebo. As you could expect, the group who supplemented their workouts with protein improved their muscle strength over the course of the study, suggesting that protein supplementation before and after a workout can maximize weight-training performance and enhance muscle recovery 24 to 48 hours following a workout.

To conclude, while any protein intake throughout the day, paired with resistance training, can help to increase muscle mass, it may be most effective to drink a protein shake either directly before a workout or closely following a workout. In fact, the type and amount of protein you eat may be the most important predictor of hypertrophy. For further information, you can explore our guide on how to use protein powder to determine how it can be best made a part of your fitness and overall wellness journey. 

Does the Type of Protein Matter?

The type of protein powder you use may have an effect on your desired results. That said, let’s explore a few of the options available on the market today:

  • Whey protein powder – This milk-based protein powder is the most effective in terms of muscle building, enhancing muscular growth and supporting post-workout recoveries. It’s incredibly bioavailable and contains all the essential amino acids, assisting in rapid protein synthesis, particularly when eaten before, during or after a workout. It also increases anabolic hormones and provides a high concentration of leucine to stimulate muscle growth. 
  • Casein protein powder – Casein is a milk protein that also contains all nine essential amino acids; however, unlike whey, it’s digested and absorbed very slowly. While it’s less effective than whey protein, it still can play a significant role in facilitating muscle growth and muscle recovery over long periods and providing calcium to the muscles and bones.
  • Egg white protein powder – For those who are allergic to dairy products, egg white protein powder can be an effective alternative, helping to maintain and build muscle. It’s also rich in all essential amino acids. 
  • Plant-based protein powder – Pea or brown rice protein powders are another alternative to dairy-based powders. Soy-based protein powders are not as bioavailable as dairy-based protein powders; however, they do contain all nine amino acids.

To further support muscle repair and growth, you may also want to consider adding unflavored collagen peptides to your diet in conjunction with any of the types of protein mentioned above, as it can aid in joint health and also help enhance overall muscle recovery.

How Much Protein Should You Consume?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is based on the needs of individuals who are sedentary. It sits at 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight; however, adults who engage in regular training to increase lean muscle mass require more protein to avoid muscle loss.

To put it simply, muscle growth occurs when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown.

Muscular atrophy can occur if proteins are not reintroduced into the body following a high-intensity resistance workout that leads to muscular breakdown. Experts estimate that people engaging in resistance training should double the RDA to consume anywhere from 1.6-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to avoid atrophy.

This elevated protein intake supports muscle protein synthesis, aids in the restoration of damaged muscle fibers and contributes to overall muscle health. Meeting these protein requirements, in conjunction with a well-balanced diet and proper hydration, is fundamental to sustaining muscle mass and achieving the desired outcomes from resistance training. If you need help figuring out how to increase protein intake further, check out our article for some key tips that can help make sure you’re getting enough to support your recovery daily.

Maximize Muscle Gain With INVIGOR8

At this time, research is inconclusive when it comes to the best time to consume protein shakes; although, it’s largely believed that drinking a protein shake near a workout can help facilitate muscle growth. 

For an all-in-one protein shake, choose INVIGOR8. The All-in-One Superfoods Powder contains 20 grams of whey protein per serving to support muscle toning and fat reduction. Plus, it’s fortified with essential vitamins and minerals like green veggie complex, prebiotic-fiber complex and digestive enzymes complex to support your overall health and wellness. For those focused on comprehensive health and weight management, our weight loss kit can provide a structured approach to meet your fitness goals while ensuring balanced nutrition.



  1. News in Health. Maintain Your Muscle
  3. Better Health. Resistance training – health benefits
  4. UNM. How do muscles grow?
  5. Transparent Labs. What is Hypertrophy? [How Protein Builds Muscle]
  6. Healthline. What Is an Anabolic Window?
  7. Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition. Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training
  8. Healthline. Whey Protein 101: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide
  9. Healthline. What Is Casein, and Does It Aid Muscle Growth?
  10. Healthline. Egg Whites Nutrition: High in Protein, Low in Everything Else
  11. SI Showcase. The 9 Best Types of Protein Powder Explained 

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

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