Skip to Content

Should I Drink a Protein Shake Before or After I Workout?

should i drink my protein shake before or after workout

You’re likely aware that protein shakes (or protein smoothies) are essential if you’re serious about building strength, growing muscle, and getting fit. But when’s the best time to drink a protein shake – before or after your workout?

The truth is, there are benefits to both and you can’t go wrong with either. At the end of the day, what you decide to go for hinges on what you’re after (big gains, reduced soreness, weight loss) and how you feel. Let’s break it down:

Benefits of Drinking a Protein Shake Before a Workout

should you drink a protein shake before or after workout

Drinking a protein shake before you hit the gym can give you a solid boost of energy while topping off your protein levels. The essential amino acids in protein help fuel your muscles during exercise while jump-starting recovery.

A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that consuming protein before resistance training increased muscle protein synthesis post-workout.[1]

Quality protein and essential amino acids help prevent muscle breakdown during your workout. This is why BCAAs are so popular with endurance athletes. It boils down to bouncing back quicker, feeling less sore, and being ready for your next workout sooner.[2]

So, if you’re looking to maximize your gains and start your recovery clock sooner, a pre-workout protein shake might be the way to go. However, if you’re trying to cut calories, you can skip the pre-workout protein shake and instead utilize an EAA or BCAA powder.

Benefits of Consuming a Protein Shake After a Workout

protein shake before or after workout benefits

Conversely, it’s been well known that drinking a protein shake after your workout helps restore energy levels and provides the necessary amino acids to rebuild and repair muscle tissue that was broken down during the workout.

​A study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that consuming protein immediately after resistance training stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than consuming it 2 hours later.[3]

It was originally viewed as critical to get your after-workout protein shake down during that critical anabolic window – the 30-60 minutes after exercise when your body is primed to utilize the protein most efficiently to support muscle repair and growth.

After a workout, the body is in an anabolic state and can more effectively shuttle the nutrients from a protein shake to the muscles that need it for recovery and adaptation. This enhanced nutrient delivery can further support the muscle-building process.[4]

While the timing of protein intake around a workout may play a role, the consensus indicates that total daily protein consumption is more important for muscle growth than whether it’s consumed before or after exercise. 

Related read: Is Drinking a Protein Shake Before Bed a Bad Idea?

Bottom Line

when to drink protein shake before or after workout

There’s evidence that supports the consumption of protein before and after your workout to help increase muscle protein synthesis and promote better recovery. 

But at the end of the day, your overall daily protein and calorie intake plays the biggest role in facilitating adaptations to exercise long-term.[5] 

How Much Protein Do I Need Per Day?

How Much Protein Before or After Workout for Athletes

According to Howard E. LeWine, MD at Harvard Health, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a mere 0.36 grams per pound of body weight (or 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram). For a 150 lb individual, that’s only about 54g of protein.

However, RDA is the bare minimum to prevent deficiency and is not a sufficient benchmark for active individuals aiming to optimize recovery. RDA is especially inadequate if you’re looking to build muscle.

Instead, consider the following metrics to calculate how much protein you need per day, depending on your activity level:

  • For the average adult, a healthy recommended range of 0.7-1.0g of protein per lb of body weight is suitable.
  • For highly active individuals or those trying to build muscle, a higher range of 1.2-2.0g of protein per lb of body weight is advised.

Various daily protein calculators and other resources may suggest slightly different metrics. But overall, these ranges will give a good idea of how much protein you need in a day.

Effective Types of Protein Shakes Before/After Workout

How Much Protein Shake Before or After Workout

Whether you’re opting for ready-to-drink protein shakes or scoop-able protein powders, there are primary types to consider to optimize your recovery before or after your workout.

  • Whey protein shakes: Probably the most widely used type, whey protein shakes are a highly bioavailable, fast-absorbing type that offers a naturally complete form of protein with all essential amino acid. However, because whey is made from dairy, it can cause digestive issues among those who are sensitive to lactose.
  • Plant-based protein shakes: Made from a variety of sources like pea, brown rice, hemp, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts, plant-based protein shakes often provide more nutrients and fiber but require the right combination of plants to achieve a complete protein. Naturally dairy-free, plant-based protein shakes are generally easier to digest and allergy-friendly.
  • Casein protein shakes: Also a dairy-based option that’s naturally complete, casein is a slow-digesting protein that can help provide a sustained release of amino acids to support muscle growth and minimize breakdown. The high glutamine and calcium content in casein may also aid in immune function and bone health during the recovery process.
  • Bone broth protein shakes: While less common, bone broth protein is rich in compounds like collagen and glycine that support connective tissue health and muscle recovery. The amino acid profile in bone broth protein makes it beneficial for promoting muscle repair and overall musculoskeletal health after intense training.

When you read the label on certain protein shake products, keep in mind the difference between protein isolates and protein concentrates.

Protein isolates are more processed protein products that contain a higher percentage of protein (typically over 90%) compared to protein concentrates (typically 70-80%), which retain more of the original non-protein components like carbs and fat.

Whey and casein protein concentrates often retain more lactose, so stick to isolated forms of these dairy-based protein shakes to avoid digestive issues like bloating and gas. Or, opt for lactose-free protein powders and shakes altogether.

You Might Also Like

About the Author

tyler tafelsky vegan protein powder review editor

This article was written by Tyler Tafelsky, the lead editor here at Tyler is an experienced writer in the health and athletic space who has tried hundreds of different plant-based nutritional products and writes about his favorites here on this blog. Learn more about Tyler by viewing his full author bio or by following him on social platforms like LinkedInTwitterFacebookPinterest, or Instagram. You can also visit his personal site to learn more about what he’s up to.

Scientific References

  1. Jäger, R., Kerksick, C.M., Campbell, B.I. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 20 (2017).
  2. Martinho DV, Nobari H, Faria A, Field A, Duarte D, Sarmento H. Oral Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation in Athletes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2022 Sep 27;14(19):4002. doi: 10.3390/nu14194002. PMID: 36235655; PMCID: PMC9571679.
  3. Kerksick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, Stout JR, Campbell B, Wilborn CD, Taylor L, Kalman D, Smith-Ryan AE, Kreider RB, Willoughby D, Arciero PJ, VanDusseldorp TA, Ormsbee MJ, Wildman R, Greenwood M, Ziegenfuss TN, Aragon AA, Antonio J. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Aug 29;14:33. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4. PMID: 28919842; PMCID: PMC5596471.
  4. Campbell, B., Kreider, R.B., Ziegenfuss, T. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 4, 8 (2007).
  5. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr. 2018 Sep 11;5:83. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00083. PMID: 30255023; PMCID: PMC6142015.