Should you use a protein shake before or after your workout?


In searching for complete optimal nutrient timing there is an age old question in bodybuilding. Should you use a protein shake before or after your workout? 

Well in this article we’re going to discuss the pros and cons and provide our opinion of what is the best time for you to use protein shakes, and whether you should opt to consume it before or after your workout. But first some housekeeping. 

Protein shakes are an excellent, cost effective and ready addition to a balanced diet. We wholeheartedly look to promote maximising nutrition from whole foods where possible, utilising supplements where there are shortfalls, so, if you do struggle to hit your protein requirements from food, shakes are a reliable and easy way to do so. We would also stress that nutrient timing is much less important than overall volume, so concentrate efforts on getting your food in and hitting macros consistently across the day, rather than focusing on the micros of timing around training. In fact, carb intake pre and post workout for readily available ATP production, is much more important than protein timing.

Protein shakes pre workout

If you’re looking to consume protein before training, ideally, you’d like protein to be consumed and broken down to be utilised a few hours before training. As such, using this as pre workout nutrition, (for energy purposes), is less effective than post workout supplementation. 

However, the type of protein you consume, and the time it takes to break down can significantly vary the effectiveness here, with something like EAAs being more readily available, more quickly, followed by whey and much longer to break down something like steak. So again, there is benefit to a shake here as opposed to whole foods. 

Protein shakes post workout

The main reason people look to consume protein shakes post workout is to maximise muscle building potential. To reiterate, we want a constant flow of protein in our system, both pre and post, however, there is a common belief in something called the anabolic window (we’ll probably follow with an article on this at some point). 

Essentially, this is a 30 minute theoretical window where protein consumption is optimal for growth. Disclaimer, this window isn’t strictly true, however there are benefits of consuming protein within a window of a couple of hours post workout, exactly for the reasons stated above. The key here is readily available protein sources, consistently timed and active in the digestive and bloodstream. 

So when should you consume your shake?

Well, we’d say this entirely depends on your consumption outside of that. If you’re training fasted (or without the potential to consume protein before training) there may be more benefit in doing so before. If you’ve been able to consume protein 1-2 hours before training, then post workout may be more convenient and allow for easier timing around that.

What we would reiterate however, is that getting the right amount in 1g/lb as a rule of thumb per day, is more important than overall timing. The choice is yours, but focus on a balanced and nutritious diet can’t be understated. 

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