Which Works Best: Protein Powder Before or After Workout?

Do you run, lift, or love HIIT routines? Maybe you just enjoy casual sports on the weekend with your friends. No matter what your favorite fitness activities are, you probably drink a protein shake before or after a workout. This means you need to buy a protein powder.

They come in delicious flavors. They boost our energy. Most importantly, they aid our body during and after intense sessions.

Like much of the fitness world, it’s easy to get lost in the vast array of information on protein supplements. Everyone has different answers about what to eat and when to eat it. Before your next trip the gym, consider the food you consume before and after your workout. Surely, your favorite protein shake fits in there somewhere.

Believe it or not, the timing of that double chocolate cookie dough protein shake matters. When you decide to drink it will affect how your body functions when you start pumping and sweating. Should you take protein powder before or after workout routines?

Let’s find out.

What Happens When You Drink a Protein Shake Before Workout Routines?

protein powder

When you’re pumping iron and burning up the racetrack, your body is breaking down protein to provide you with fuel. It’s hard to see the gains when you’re using your existing muscle to get through each workout. This reason is why so many people ask the question of whether to consume protein powder before or after workout routines.

Those who support the post-workout shakes argue that the supplements recover what your body broke down in the gym. However, wouldn’t it make sense to provide your body with fuel before it starts breaking down proteins? Of course!

You can benefit from protein powder before or after workout routines, but you’ll see more results drinking one prior. It all depends on how serious you are about seeing monster gains. If you don’t believe us, let’s ask the experts.

The Research Says…

Studies show that drinking it about 30 minutes prior gives the amino acids enough time to reach your bloodstream.1 This way, your mind and body are ready to push the envelope and crush new fitness challenges. Not only does having a protein shake before a workout give you this boost, but keeps working afterward too. Your anabolism will continue working longer following intense sessions.

However, if you are a highly active athlete or recreational gym goer, drinking a second one afterward is also a wise decision.2

So for those who aren’t sure whether to drink protein powder before or after workout routines, there are two answers. The average person who regularly goes to the gym several days a week are better off having one before. Extremely active people who exercise several times a day would be wise to drink one before and after their most intense workout.

Now that you know when to drink them, how do you choose which one to drink?

Choosing the Right Protein Powders

Whether you’re a gym god or a total newbie, the hundreds of brands of powders can make you second-guess your decision. How can you be sure that the one you’re choosing is the best choice for your routine? To make matters worse, there are scientific studies highlighting some brands that aren’t completely honest about the nutritional makeup.

As you know, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements. Since protein powders fall into that category, the only concerns manufactures’ face are that3:

  • Their supplement products are safe for human use
  • Evidence supports their marketing claims

Unless supplement companies report harmful effects of their product to the FDA, there is no investigation. Until the FDA has reason to look closer at a specific product, no recalls or other steps are taken.

Given this, it’s wise to research specific brands of interest before you make a purchase. Regardless of how appealing one jug of powder may be over another, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Types of Protein Powders

Since there are too many brands on the shelves to scrutinize, we’ll focus on the basic types you’ll see. They are all unique from one another. That means that your gym buddy’s preference might not align with your personal needs. Know what you’re putting in your body before you fire up the blender!

Whey Protein Powder

Whey is one of the proteins found in milk. The powder form is by far the most popular and cheapest supplement you can find. A lot of people at your gym likely consume whey protein before or after workout sessions. Pick this up on your next trip to the grocery run to avoid a trip to a specialty shop.

If you pay close attention, you’ll notice three variations4.

  1. Whey Protein Concentrate

Of the three kinds, this one undergoes the least processing. Although that sounds good, it’s not. It has more fat, more lactose, and less total protein than its upgraded counterparts. On average, the total protein in concentrates range from 70 – 85%.

  1. Whey Protein Isolate

Isolates are the middle ground of whey protein. They go through more processing to remove extra lactose and fat. That not only makes it safer for the lactose-intolerant but boosts the total protein count as well. On average, a whey protein isolate powder will consist of 90% protein and up.

  1. Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Powder

These have gone through the most processing. It’s processed until the protein breaks down into groups of amino acids (supposedly). If this is true, it would mean that the amino acids digest quicker.

As long as you use them responsibly, choosing one of these over another won’t have noticeable effects. However, whey is one of the best options in general because it is a cost-effective complete protein. Being a “complete” protein means it has all 9 amino acids humans need.

Casein Protein Powder

Casein is the second and main type of protein that comes from milk. Although they have a lot in common, there’s one big difference between casein and whey. Casein breaks down slower in your body. Think of it as the “extended release” version of whey.

Some argue that this makes it a subpar powder to drink before a workout. However, it’s not as bad as they thought. When it comes down to it, casein and whey nearly parallel each other. So if there’s a jug of casein powder on your shelf already, don’t worry about running out for whey.

Soy Protein Powder

Another complete protein, soy is a favorite go-to staple for many vegetarians and vegans. In studies, it proves to be just as effective as its dairy counterpart, whey.5

There are some concerns about how soy affects hormone levels. For example, some men fear that soy will reduce their testosterone levels. However, as long as you don’t suffer from pre-existing hormone issues or take soy powder in excess, you’ll be okay.

Pea Protein Powder

Pea powder is another vegetarian and vegan protein choice. Since it contains zero dairy, it’s also safe for the lactose-intolerant. Can it get any better? Yes! It’s also fat and cholesterol-free.

Although it works similarly to whey and casein, pea powder lacks the amino acid cysteine. Besides this one downside, it’s a perfect choice for those with special diets and those with stomach sensitivities. If your normal powder is causing you problems (gas, bloating, etc.), give pea powder a try.

Vegan Protein Powder Blends

It will cost you some extra dough, but vegan blends are the best non-dairy powders you can buy. They combine powders from hemp, rice, peas, and more. This means they do not contain dairy, soy, or gluten. So if you have stomach sensitivities or a special diet, consider one of these healthy protein shakes before a workout.

Doing Protein the “Right Whey”

There’s no doubt about it – drinking a protein shake before a workout is your best choice.

It does more than just give your body the fuel it requires to get through intense lifts and cardio. You’ll be more effective at gaining muscle, burning more calories, and burning more fat. As if that dopamine rush from exercise doesn’t feel good enough, the right protein shake is a cherry on top.

Taking protein powder before or after workout routines will make you feel good. However, taking some before will make you feel like you’re on top of the world.

Then when you’re done showing those barbells and squat racks who’s boss, your body doesn’t stop gaining benefits. Even if you just go home to crash on the couch, you’ll continue to synthesize muscle protein for three hours. Who knew vegging out could be so good for you?

However, protein powder before or after workout routines is beneficial either way. You’re just better off drinking one before so you can maximize the results you want. So before you take your next trek to the weight room, chug that double chocolate shake. Of course, only if you’re ready to take your fitness game to the next level and can greatly help with improving body recomposition.

Find all the resources used in this article and the scientific basis of all our article at The Science Behind Fitness.

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