Best Time To Take Protein
The Best Time To Take Protein
There are a variety of protein supplements you could take, but the most popular are whey and casein (from milk) for the best protein synthesis and easiest digestion.
Whey protein absorbs quickly for muscle recovery and growth, taking less than an hour after drinking your protein shake to fully metabolize. We call this protein “fast-acting.” Casein, on the other hand, absorbs slowly, taking about 3 to 4 hours for the same effect, so we call this protein “slow-acting.”
Both whey and casein, over other protein supplements, appear to offer the greatest gains in muscle recovery and growth.
Getting adequate protein matters more than when you take it.3 But once you're sure you're getting enough, there is definitely the right type of protein for the right time of day.
- After a workout. A 2013 meta-analysis poked a hole in the idea of an "anabolic window" that lasts 30-45 minutes after a workout.3 But make no mistake, this is still a good time to have a shake! After you train, both protein synthesis and protein breakdown are elevated. Unless you take protein, only the breakdown will remain elevated—and that's what you don't want. Plus, a protein shake taken consistently after training has been shown again and again to result in greater muscle and strength gains.4-8
- Before a workout. As Nick Coker notes in the article "The Case for Pre-workout Protein," a protein shake before training has actually been shown to be as effective as one taken post-workout. Fast-acting whey can work on repairing your muscles even as you’re breaking them down!9 Of course, this isn't for everybody, or for every workout—if you toss back a huge protein shake and then do intense cardio intervals, your stomach may let you hear about it.
- Right before bed. Having a protein shake before bed has been linked to increased fat loss, as well as muscle and strength gains. Casein would be the better protein to take before bed, because it is slow-acting and feeds the muscles over a longer period than whey, working on your gains while you sleep! 10-12 What's not to like?13
- Right upon waking. Research indicates that you're more sensitive to the effect of the amino acids in protein for up to 24 hours after training.14 A good, fast-acting whey protein shake when you rise is a great way to start feeding those muscles again. If the shake is going to take the place of breakfast, use slow-acting casein protein instead to control appetite and cravings throughout the day.