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When are the best times to drink your protein shakes?

13th August 2015 Print

Protein is the main chemical component used to boost the growth and development of muscle fibre, while simultaneously acting as a fuel source for the body’s engine. We all need it, we all crave it, and we can all take it from lean meats, fish, nuts and other food.

A viable alternative or supplement is the mighty protein shake and its many flavours, but unlike most food knowledge there seem to be conflicting rules and strands of advice. We know that consistently snacking on high-carb junk before bed, for instance, will likely wreck our body’s chances of removing fat and attaining a lean figure. Do the drawbacks of eating just before bed also apply to protein shakes, or early in the morning?

Firstly, we will assume that if you’re reading this you desire an extra protein boost, since you haven’t been able to find the necessary volume from food. That’s understandable, since the recommended amount of protein for an athlete – potentially anywhere between 200-400g a day – is difficult to achieve for most people. An average chicken breast has around 30g of protein, so we’re talking seven breasts a day at the low end of the athletic scale.

(To put that into context, an average sedentary 80kg man eating 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day should need at least 64g of protein per day).

According to Shawn LeBrun at, there are at least four times of the day when gulping down a protein drink might be beneficial; before and after a workout, and before and after sleeping. Drinking half an hour before a workout, “sets up the ‘anabolic window’ before your workout and provides your muscles with adequate nutrition so that the effects of weight training (weight training breaks down muscle-called catabolic) are not as severe.”

Protein is fast to consume and absorb, so it makes perfect sense to drink it before and after training rather than wolfing down a chicken breast, as well as actually during the training session itself. 

Conceivably then, an athlete could drink shakes for breakfast, dinner and the evening meal, and forego eating. No trainer in the world would sanction such advice, for multiple reasons, the main one being that you will miss out on the minerals and vitamins that food provide. It’s far better to still have several meals throughout the day, and perhaps two bursts of liquid protein. 

There are many brands of protein shake on the market, catering for all builds, ages and abilities. It’s worth doing your research into the company brand, and examining the chemicals included. Too many artificial colours and preservatives will undo the work spent burning away any bad carbs and sugars that you’ve consumed. The flip side of that is that the flavour may suffer once too many ingredients are removed – there’s no point in investing in a product that you won’t ever drink. For a guide to the pros and cons of the actual protein types available, such as whey, egg whites and others, click here.

These are all advice-led pieces and there are few hard and fast rules, other than that which states that a protein shake is a supplement to correct nutrition, not a replacement. Do your research, speak to experts such as those at Fysiqal Nutrition, experiment, and listen to your body, and the correct timings will soon fall into place.