A concern for many novice weight trainees new to the idea of supplementing with whey protein supplements is knowing the ideal time to consume a shake to reap the full benefits. While there is no one-size fits all answer to this, below are some guidelines below which will help you make the most out of your purchase.
The effects of taking whey protein
To understand the best time to take protein, it’s important to know what happens when whey is consumed. Upon entering the stomach, the whey is digested and slowly broken down into its constituent parts. Unlike most other foods, the protein in whey is highly bioavailable, meaning it is quickly absorbed into the body. It’s for this reason that the timing of your whey protein shake can matter.
On days where you are not planning on exercising, you will be using a whey protein supplement to ‘top up’ your total protein intake for that day, therefore the time consumed is not so important. Many will prefer to consume their shake instead at a time when getting a meal with sufficient protein is difficult, such as at work or on the move. It may be beneficial to take your shake at the very start of the day, when your body has likely gone its longest stretch without food or more specifically protein, but this is as much convenience as anything else.
The days where you will be doing some form of training is when the timing of your protein shake is going to matter most. During a heavy weight lifting session, muscle will be broken down and ideally if conditions are right, be re-built a little stronger and larger than they were before. Many factors come into play for this to happen, one of these being nutrition, and as a part of this the timings of post workout shakes.
As stated earlier, whey protein is broken down and absorbed quickly by the body. In order to kick start the muscle re-building process as effectively as possible, the body will require protein as soon as possible. The easiest way to do this is to take a whey protein shake immediately or as soon as possible after finishing your workout. This will flood the muscle with vital amino acids the muscle repair process and help to prevent any lasting muscle catabolism (where in effect the body uses muscle tissue for fuel).
Of course adequate protein is near useless for growing muscle without ensuring the body has enough energy to carry out these processes, it’s for this reason that not long following your workout (1-1.5 hrs) a balanced, whole foods meal should be eaten, containing yet more protein but with additional calories (from carbs or fats) to replace the energy lost in the workout and fuel the body’s recovery.
Having optimally timed protein shakes is one part of the success for any strength/muscle size gain program, however it’s crucial that the bigger picture not be lost sight of – don’t neglect the overall diet and training regime for this is what will ultimately lead to your success.