If you are reading this article, you probably have specific health goals in mind that involve protein shakes. Perhaps a friend recommended to you that protein shakes can help you build muscle or lose weight. Maybe, right now, you even have that big tub of protein powder in your hands, but you don’t know what to do with it. Well for this article, I’ll be covering how to get the most out of your protein shake by the timing of when you take it.
Two Types of Protein Shakes
There are two common types of protein shakes, namely whey and casein. Whey can be further processed into concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate forms. The key to their intake lies in the speed by which they are digested in the gastrointestinal tract.
In general, whey protein shakes are fast digesting. You can already expect your shake to be digested and nutrients circulating through your bloodstream between 15 to 30 minutes. Of the different forms of whey proteins, the fastest to be digested is hydroxylated because it has already been broken down into amino acids and other essential nutrients in muscle building. However, the release of amino acids and other nutrients and the increase in plasma insulin is also of short duration. In contrast, casein protein shakes are slow digesting.
Just how slow is it? You can expect protein synthesis and blood amino acid release to spike between 3 to 4 hours. Unlike whey, you can expect a slow steady stream of amino acids and other nutrients flowing to your muscles.
Scheduling a Protein Shake
Any fitness and sports expert will tell you that before you embark on any muscle building or weight loss regimen, you should know your required protein intake. It is best to discuss your health goals first with a doctor or fitness trainer so that he or she will guide you on how much protein you need to take.
You should also take into consideration your lifestyle. If you find yourself missing a meal or two, you will need to compensate for a protein shake. It is common knowledge that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Ideally, because you have deprived of food while you are sleeping, you should eat a big healthy breakfast that is rich in carbs (for energy) and protein. But because of a hectic work schedule, you might end up eating a rushed, small breakfast or not eating anything at all. If you are going to miss breakfast, experts advise that you take instead whey protein shake mixed with a serving of vegetable and one or two servings of food to meet your nutritional requirements for the morning. It is also advised that you take a protein shake or two in between meals especially if you have a high protein requirement.
Moving on to workouts, there are some fitness experts who say that you can also take a whey protein shake before you begin training. Others advise that you eat a pre-workout meal 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout. However, all sports experts are in agreement that you should take a whey protein shake AFTER your workout. But just how soon after is still a matter of argument.
Fitness experts have been talking about the existence of a protein window or protein timing. During this period, the delivery to and absorption of amino acids and other nutrients to the muscles is at its peak. The idea is that taking protein shakes during this period will fuel even greater muscle growth.
Now, most fitness buffs will tell you that this protein window is one hour after you finish your workout. However, clinical studies have demonstrated that this window of protein synthesis potentially lasts for as long as 24 to 48 hours. With that being said I still am a firm believer in trying to get protein into those broken muscles as soon as possible after I finish my workout. Given this information, it is ideal that you take a protein shake within one hour of concluding your workout but don’t overthink this, just chug a protein shake after your workout as soon as you can.
In the evening, the protein shake of choice is definitely casein because of its slow digestion. You should take a casein shake before going to bed as this will allow a steady flow of amino acids to your muscles while you are sleeping. It also helps to repair and heal muscles that have been damaged as a result of your workout and your day’s activities. Now that you know when to time your intakes, try to make sure you’re not only timing your protein well but also getting enough of it.
Sterling is a writer, fitness junkie and loves all things technology. Sterling is the owner of ChainsToGains.com or over on his Tumblr, which is where you can get in touch with him if you have any questions/comments.