People often wonder whether it’s better to drink a protein shake before or after a workout, but does it really matter? According to the pros, timing really is everything in order to reap the benefits of the nutrient-loaded staple. While drinking one beforehand can actually mess with your workout, waiting until you’re done can provide all the muscle-boosting powers.
According to Amanda Steinberg, RDN, a registered dietitian in California, protein digests slowly in the body. And that’s why drinking a protein shake before your workout can cause problems. “Drinking a protein shake before a workout can decrease your performance, as you may feel heavy from the protein shake,” she says. “But consuming protein shortly after your workout, or within three hours of exercise, is optimal for recovery.”
What drinking a protein shake does for your body
There are many benefits to drinking protein shakes after working out, the main being the recovery and muscle-building aspects. “While exercising, small micro-tears take place in muscle tissue. Micro-tears allow amino acids to build and maintain muscle mass. (Amino acids are broken down protein from our diet),” Steinberg says. “Therefore, consuming protein is critical for rebuilding and maintaining muscle quality post-exercise.”
Because post-exercise muscles need to be built up again after a workout, Steinberg says the consumption of protein through protein shakes is the way to go. You just need to make sure you’re using the right kind in order to truly give your body a boost.
The best kind of protein powder to look for
When you’re choosing a protein powder for your protein shake, Steinberg recommends focusing on a handful of different qualities to ensure what you’re getting is high-quality and healthy. “The best quality protein powders are the ones that contain all nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine,” she says. “Both grass-fed whey protein or pea protein powder are great options. Just be sure to look for protein powders that don’t have added sugar or additives.”
What to put in your post-workout protein shake
Aside from the protein powder (duh!), what else should you be putting in your post-workout protein shake? “Pairing protein powder with carbohydrates from fruit will help muscle recovery. Interestingly, carbohydrate consumption with protein immediately after exercise increases protein synthesis in the muscles,” she says. “Also, when eating carbohydrates with protein, a higher percentage of lean body mass is found.”
There are so many delicious recipes to try, and if you need some ideas, you can start with the matcha shake Jessica Alba drinks every morning or the cauliflower smoothie the Tone It Up founders love. Whichever combo you go with, getting in your protein right after sweating it out will have you feeling stronger than ever.