- The ideal time for protein intake
- Important in advance: How much protein do you actually need to build muscle?
- Protein before the workout vs. protein after the workout
- With more power to the workout: Is a protein shake before the workout useful?
- Protein shake after training - the miracle cure for muscle building?
- The anabolic window and muscle building
- Protein Shake before and after training as a compromise?
- Conclusion: Protein Shake before or after training: Which is better?
The ideal time for protein intake
Morning, noon, evening, before the workout or rather after the workout: There are numerous theories and myths about the right time to take protein for muscle growth. For a long time, there was no reliable scientific data to answer the question of whether it is better to take protein before or after exercise. In the meantime, however, studies have shed light on when the right time for protein intake is. After all, protein is generally important for the body, but plays a particularly important role in muscle building. For this reason, many athletes naturally ask themselves how they can best use their Whey protein to build and maintain muscle mass.
In our guide, we explain whether it is better to drink protein shakes before or after training, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the different times and what you should consider.
Important in advance: How much protein do you need to build muscle?
Before one deals with the question of whether it is better to drink protein shakes before or after training, it is first necessary to clarify another question. Because in addition to the appropriate time, it is especially important how much protein is needed at all for muscle building. Proteins are among the most important macronutrients for the body and contribute to the increase and maintenance of muscle mass. But how much protein you should consume daily depends on your personal goals and your physical activity.[¹] The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults to avoid a protein deficiency.[²] But beware: This recommendation applies to people who are not very active.
Those who are active in sports several times a week or who also do strength training to build muscle also have a higher protein requirement. For active people and for building muscles, the DGE recommendation is therefore too low. According to new scientific findings, a minimum intake of 1.2 to 1.6 g of protein per kilogram of body weight is more effective for muscle growth.[³]
Protein before exercise vs. protein after exercise.
After a long time without a scientifically based answer as to whether it is better to drink protein shakes before or after exercise, Brad Schoenfeld, Alan Albert Aragon, James W. Krieger and others scientifically investigated this very question in 2016. In their study, they divided 21 men into two groups, each of whom was given a protein shake containing 25 g of protein. One group drank the protein shake before training, the other after. All subjects also trained according to the same training schedule on the same number of days. The result: the scientists could not observe any significant differences between the two groups. This result is also in line with a detailed meta-analysis of various studies from 2013.[⁴]
What this means for athletes is that it doesn't really matter whether you eat protein before or after exercise. It can be assumed, of course, that muscles are particularly receptive to protein intake after training in order to regenerate. However, the scientists came to the conclusion that it is less important for muscle building when protein is consumed, but rather that protein is consumed at all. The decisive factor is that the daily protein requirement is adequately covered. And also how many hours before and after the training one consumes protein, has influence on the training success. However, taking protein shakes before or after training offers different advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of.
With more power to the workout: Is a protein shake before the workout useful?
Drinking a protein shake directly before your workout is not advisable and can even negatively influence your workout. If you take a shake right before your workout, it can be heavy on your stomach and weaken your performance.
In principle, it is of course not bad to supply your body with energy before the sport. A snack of protein and carbohydrates is ideal to give you enough strength for your workout. If you want to drink a protein shake before training, there should ideally be one to three hours between the intake and the workout. This way, your stomach can digest the shake a bit and won't be pressed while you actually want to perform at full capacity. However, you should always keep in mind that this can not be a universal recommendation, because every body is different. Some people don't mind eating something before exercise, while for others even an apple beforehand is too much. And of course, the intensity of the training also plays a role in the tolerance and the decision for the appropriate time.
Protein Shake after training - the miracle cure for muscle building?
Your muscles are probably more receptive to the supply of protein after the stress of your workout, so protein shakes can make a valuable contribution to muscle building and muscle regeneration. One of the reasons for this is that proteins support muscle protein synthesis after exercise, effectively helping to increase and maintain muscle mass. However, just as with pre-workout protein shakes, there are a few factors to consider when taking them after a workout. Here, too, it is worthwhile to pay attention to an easily digestible preparation. Because directly after exercise, a rich protein shake with a lot of milk may be too much for the stomach. Some athletes therefore prefer to mix their Whey Protein with water after training to avoid this. In addition, it is worthwhile to pay attention to a protein powder with high value, because only then you can ensure the supply of the muscles with all important amino acids.
After an intense workout, the body demands energy. A shake with Whey protein after training is a good option, because it is quickly prepared and is available as a quick source of protein for the muscles. This is especially crucial if you want to stay within the anabolic window for protein intake after exercise. Because this plays an important role especially for muscle building.
The anabolic window and muscle building
Similar to the ideal time to take proteins, there are also numerous opinions among athletes, trainers and fitness experts about the so-called anabolic window. The anabolic window is the period after the workout in which the body and the muscles are particularly receptive and benefit maximally from the supply of proteins and important amino acids. For a long time, it was assumed that the anabolic window was quite small and that protein intake had to start within the first 30 minutes after a workout in order to build muscle at all. However, recent scientific research has shown that the anabolic window is much larger than assumed and that the 30 minutes is too tight. The two researchers Alan Albert Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld have found out that it is sufficient to consume high-quality proteins as a shake or as a protein-rich meal within two to three hours after the workout.[⁵] However, you should also make sure to include some carbohydrates and fats, because your muscles also need them to recover after the workout.
Whey protein is a quickly available source of protein after exercise, because the high-quality whey protein contains all essential amino acids. In addition, you can also integrate protein into your diet through food.
Vegetable protein sources are for example:
- Soy flakes
- Legumes such as lentils and beans
Good animal sources of protein include:
- Meat (beef, poultry, lamb)
- Fish (tuna, trout, pollock)
- Dairy products
Protein shake before and after training as a compromise?
For muscle building it is not very important whether you take your protein shake before or after training. Therefore, it is not harmful if you even drink a shake before and after your workout.
With a protein shake before and after your workout, you can provide your body with enough energy for the workout as well as support for the subsequent recovery. In addition, you can also meet your daily protein requirements more easily in this way. However, protein shakes are only one way to integrate protein into your diet. Whey protein can be much more than "just" a shake. You can use Whey Protein for baking or stir your protein powder into your quark or yogurt for breakfast. With a powder with a delicious taste, like our ESN Fruity Whey Isolate, this is no problem at all. You want to take your protein already in the morning with your coffee? This is also possible, for example with ESN FLEXPRESSO Protein Coffee. As you can see, integrating Whey Protein into your daily routine is not difficult at all. If you distribute your protein intake throughout the day, you will also reach your protein requirements. It's up to you whether you choose to prepareyourprotein shake before or after exercise, or even both.
Conclusion: Protein Shake before or after training: Which is better?
According to current scientific studies, it makes no difference whether you take your protein shake before or after your workout. Rather, you should make sure to cover your daily protein requirement and thus support muscle building.
Therefore, you can simply drink your protein shake when it is best for you. If you feel fit and powerful with a protein shake before training, then taking it before sports seems ideal for you. If you are more the type who prefers not to eat before exercise, then simply take your shake after your workout.
However, make sure to balance your protein shake intake with your other protein intake over meals to best meet your protein needs. In addition, not only proteins are crucial if you want to build muscles, but also carbohydrates and fats as well as vitamins and minerals are important for the body. Therefore, a balanced diet with plenty of protein is ideal for building muscle and reaching your goals.