You’ve probably heard of pre workout protein and post workout protein consumption, but when should you actually have protein? Think of protein as the building blocks of muscle growth—it’s the foundation of lean muscle and essential when embarking on your strength training journey. But, rather than sandwiching your cardio or weighted ab workouts with a morning protein shake and an afternoon protein bar, it’s best to limit your intake as too much protein may interfere with other important body functions.1
Whether you consume protein before or after working out generally doesn’t matter.2 However, the amount and timing of your protein-packed snack in relation to your workout do make a difference if you’re looking to put on muscle.
That being said, we’ll deep dive into everything you need to know about incorporating protein into your workout routine in this guide.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
You may be looking at your protein powder right now and asking yourself, Should I drink protein shake before or after workout? It’s a fair question but the first question you need to answer is, Do I need to drink a protein shake at all?
While we need protein, just how much is optimal is up for debate. But there are a few numbers worth keeping in mind:3
1.2 – 1.7 grams – This amount of protein per kilogram of body weight is an acceptable range for people who lift weights regularly. However, this number may waver. For example, fitness expert Jeff Nippard recommends 1.6 to 2.7 grams of protein per kilogram of weight, depending on your goals. This equates to around 1 gram per pound of body weight.4
0.8 grams – This is the daily amount of recommended protein per kilogram of bodyweight as suggested by the World Health Organization. That converts to 0.36 grams per pound. If you weigh 180 lbs that means you would only need about 65 grams of protein. Keep in mind that this is recommended for sedentary adults looking to maintain their health.
1 gram – As you get older, you start to lose muscle mass. Once you get between 40 and 50 years old, you should up your protein intake to 1 gram per kilogram of body weight to prevent muscle loss.
Note: Your body can only use so much protein to build muscle. Consuming an extra protein shake after your workout when you’ve already gulped down your pre-workout smoothie won’t help you build double the muscle—and it may even cause your kidneys to kick into overdrive. Additionally, you should avoid replacing your everyday carbs with an extra helping of protein powder to ensure your body has everything it needs to perform its best.
When Should I Eat Protein?
When planning your protein intake, you’ll want to consider the type and timing of your workout like “do you generally have a morning or evening workout?” While it doesn’t matter whether you sip on your shake before or after your trip to the gym, studies have shown that several other factors must be considered when consuming protein.5 These include:
Timing of your workouts – A pre-workout protein shake may be just what your body needs to perform a grueling lineup of deadlifts, squats, and bench presses. But, if you just ate a well-balanced meal, you won’t need to add a protein shake to the menu. As such, post-breakfast or post-lunch workouts typically lend themselves to post-workout protein shakes. That said, if you work out late at night, a protein shake may be too heavy post-workout. Instead, opt for a lighter option like a bar or bowl of nuts.
Workout performance – When gauging when to eat your protein shake or bar, consider how your body responds. For example, you’ll want to avoid a pre-workout snack if it makes you feel bloated and decreases your performance in the gym.
Carryover effect – One argument in favor of the pre-workout shake is that protein ingested before a workout has a carryover effect that can last multiple hours after your workout.6 Before using this as a definite reason to go pre-workout, remember your body doesn’t know the difference between protein from a shake or protein from food, so if you eat before your workout, you may still experience this effect.
Anabolic response – Those in favor of post-workout protein typically refer to the anabolic response and the anabolic window, a term used by strength trainers that refers to the 15-minute period after a workout when it’s believed that protein intake can help to increase muscle mass. While there’s some truth to this idea, it’s likely overstated. Unless you’re fasting before your workout, you’ll likely have enough nutrients and protein in your system to assist muscle gain.4
Whether you’re consuming protein for muscle repair or recovery, muscle growth, etc., when you take your protein supplements depends on your body, exercise, and fitness goals.
Build Muscle at Chuze Fitness
So, should you have protein before or after workout? Generally, it doesn’t matter and should be personalized to your body and workout so that you can continue to perform your best and meet your fitness goals.
For a gym experience that makes a difference, look to any of the Chuze Fitness locations.
Our gyms are stocked with everything you need to build muscle, including free weights and team training sessions to strengthen your fitness routine. Plus, you can fuel your performance and maximize your gains with our Chuze Blends.
About the author:
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
WebMD. Will Eating More Protein Help Your Body Gain Muscle Faster? https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/will-eating-more-protein-help-your-body-gain-muscle-faster
American Physiological Society. Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.00166.2006?url_ver=Z39.88-2003
Mayo Clinic. Are you getting too much protein? https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/are-you-getting-too-much-protein
Jeff Nippard. The Smartest Way To Use Protein To Build Muscle (Science Explained). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pok0Jg2JAkE
Newsweek. Should You Drink a Protein Shake Before or After Workout? https://www.newsweek.com/protein-shakes-before-after-workout-1674450
Bobdybuilding.com. Should I Drink A Protein Shake Before Or After My Workout? https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/ask-the-macro-manager-pre-post-workout-shakes.html