Whether you want to gain muscle or lose weight, protein can play a significant role in the fitness equation.
As an essential macronutrient, protein is the fuel your body depends on to boost energy levels, foster muscle growth and supercharge recovery. And, for the fitness enthusiast preparing to pump iron, go for a run or swim laps, protein shakes are often the fastest and most convenient way to receive the vital nutrients our bodies need to work on overdrive.
While many athletes will consume a post-workout protein shake, you may ask can I drink a protein shake before working out?
If you’re wondering whether it’s better to drink a protein shake before or after a workout, this comparison guide is for you.
The Case For the Pre-Workout Protein Shake
Can you drink a protein shake before working out?
Of course you can. But should you? To answer that, we must first review conventional wisdom about the post-workout shake.
Arguments For the Post-Workout Shake
Traditionally, researchers, dieticians and athletes alike believed the post workout shake was an essential piece of the nutrition puzzle — it was the gold standard. This was credited to the anabolic window of opportunity, an internal state that immediately follows intense exercise in which the muscles are better able to absorb protein.
It was believed that the anabolic window of opportunity — when protein is most effective for athletic performance and muscle recovery — was a time-sensitive, 30-minute window.
So, by immediately incorporating a protein shake into a post-workout routine, a person could enjoy the following benefits:
Build lean muscle – The amino acid in the protein powder is essential building blocks in muscle growth. When combined with intense workouts or strength training, proteins — especially fast-acting proteins like whey — accelerate lean muscle growth and stimulate gains in muscle size.
Supercharge recovery – Fitness is a daily grind. If you want it to be a daily habit, you need to treat your body the right way so that it’s better able to recuperate from the strain of the previous workout. A strenuous workout causes muscle fibers to break down, but different types of protein powder help reverse that process so that you’re not sidelined by muscle soreness the next day.
Reduce exercise-related inflammation – Similarly, high-intensity exercises create microscopic tears in muscles, triggering an inflammatory response in the body. This can result in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which can cause stiffness, discomfort and reduced range of muscles. But protein contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate soreness and kindle quick muscle recovery.
Increase satiety – Diet and nutrition are crucial components of building muscle and improving fitness, and protein has satiating properties that can help you feel more full which makes it easier to avoid overeating or snacking on junk foods after the workout is over.
Boost energy – A lack of appetite can be a normal physiological response to strenuous exercise and activity. For people with sensitive stomachs, drinking protein shake can provide the energy boost they need to go about the rest of their day without feeling sluggish.
Experience better overall health – According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, people that take protein shortly after a workout tend to report fewer medical visits, less muscle soreness and improved immune response, compared to those that don’t.
Can I Drink a Protein Shake Before a Workout?
As mentioned above, conventional wisdom stated that the anabolic window was a narrow 30-minute time horizon. For best results, you needed to pack in protein immediately after the workout had concluded. If you’re finding it a hassle to make protein shakes after a workout and are wondering “can you freeze protein shakes,” the answer is yes. You can freeze them for as long as three months, depending on the ingredients used.
But recent evidence has challenged this post-exercise protein shake worldview, stating that the window of opportunity is much broader than previously believed. According to researchers from the University of Georgia State:
“While the common belief is that the anabolic window ceases within one-hour post-exercise, evidence has suggested that this window may extend to the 5-6 hours surrounding training. The timing of post-exercise nutrition is largely dependent on what state the individual is training in. If exercise occurs in the fasted state, for example, the anabolic window gets much tighter compared to when someone trains in the fed state.”
This discovery has flipped conventional nutrition wisdom on its head, especially regarding protein timing. Now, there’s a strong case in favor of a pre-workout protein shake. Some of the arguments for the pre-workout shake include:
Energy boost – If you enter a workout, particularly a high-intensity workout, at a caloric deficit, you may not have the energy you need to fuel your activities. In such a state, you’re more likely to underperform and fatigue faster. Taking a protein shake beforehand can provide the energy boost you need without making you feel weighed down by an entire meal in your stomach.
Muscle fuel – Some proteins — specifically, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) — don’t have to be processed by the liver, but are instead absorbed directly into the bloodstream and then sent to the muscles. As a result, BCAAs can help prevent muscle catabolism. In other words, the BCAAs are broken down and oxidized instead of the muscle that’s performing the activity.
Enhanced protein synthesis – Muscle protein synthesis is a vital process by which the body converts amino acids into proteins that are used to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that has been damaged during exercise. This process occurs naturally as a response to the stress placed on the muscles during physical activity. Taking a pre-workout shake can supply the body with a high-quality amino acid source, which, in turn, can help promote muscle growth, recovery and strength.
Increased muscle adaptation – Protein intake can fuel and enhance your muscles’ ability to adapt to strength training. Consuming protein before a workout stimulates muscle endurance, making it possible to workout harder and longer.
Carryover effect – After consuming a protein shake, protein synthesis can continue for hours, enabling you to enjoy the benefits of this process before and after your workout.
What Are Daily Protein Requirements?
While there are strong arguments for both a pre- and post-workout protein shake, what’s truly important is that a person is consuming enough high-quality protein to fuel healthy activity.
But how much daily protein does a person need?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that between 10%-35% of a person’s caloric intake should be protein, but the exact protein levels will depend on several factors, including:
Age – Older adults tend to require more protein than younger adults due to changes in metabolism, protein synthesis and utilization.
Sex – Compared to women, men will typically require higher levels of protein due to increased muscle mass and hormone levels.
Body weight – Larger individuals will typically need more protein in order to maintain existing muscle mass.
Activity levels – High-intensity or physically demanding activities tend to burn more calories and take a larger toll on the muscles. Individuals engaging in such activities may need more protein to support muscle growth and recovery.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Mothers tend to have higher protein requirements to support the growth and development of their babies.
Generally speaking, an average person should have 1–1.2 grams of protein per two pounds of body weight. But that can increase up to two grams for individuals who regularly engage in high-intensity activities.
Benefits of Protein Shakes
Before you look into how to use protein powder or smoothies and all the recipes you can try, let’s dive into their benefits first. For individuals who want to improve their health and fitness, protein shakes can provide several general benefits, including:
Increased muscle mass and strength – By incorporating protein shakes into your daily diet — along with routine, high-intensity exercise — you can increase your gains. Over time, you should experience noticeable improvements in your muscle mass, body fat composition and strength.
Improved recovery – Meeting your fitness goals won’t happen overnight — it takes diligence, repetition and perseverance. But it’s hard to get back in the gym when you’re sore. Protein shakes can ameliorate such issues by accelerating the recovery process and reducing exercise-related inflammation and discomfort.
Healthy weight gain or loss – Whatever your weight goals may be, a high-quality protein shake is packed with the essential macronutrients a person needs to maintain optimal caloric levels.
Speed and convenience – Whether time is tight or you’re frequently on the go, drinking protein shakes are a fast and easy way to get the protein your body needs — without having to cook a meal. You simply scoop and shake with water or milk.
Low cost – Some protein supplement shakes contain all of the nutrients necessary to be a total meal replacement. This can make them a cheaper alternative to a normal lunch or dinner, especially if you tend to eat out. For instance, Invigor8’s Superfood Shake Subscribe & Save 4-pack averages out to just $3 per meal.
For Pre- and Post-Workout Protein Shakes, Choose INVIGOR8
In the past, doctors suggested that the best time to consume protein was immediately after a strenuous workout. But now, it appears that you can benefit from either a pre- or a post-workout shake. And, if you had to pick one or the other, a pre-workout shake may be the best option due to the carryover effect.
But where can you find a protein shake that contains the natural ingredients your body needs to fuel and then recover from a workout?
At INVIGOR8, our All-In-One Superfood Meal Replacement is packed with eight nutritional complexes meant to help you build muscle, burn fat and control your hunger. Plus, our shakes contain zero gluten, soy or artificial ingredients.
Our weight-loss products all work great on their own, but they work even better together! Try our Superfood Shake in combination with our Collagen Peptides or Fat Burner to promote healthy weight loss.