A question that is often asked by bodybuilders and strength athletes is, “when is the best time to drink a protein shake?”
My quick answer is: Whenever you want!
Long detailed answer is as follows:
Be sure you are using a high quality protein powder. See “5 Whey Protein Powders that are actually high in protein”.
The critical times for protein shakes are:
- First thing in the morning.
- Immediately after every workout.
- Last thing before bed.
Yes, that’s 3 shakes every day, and I have been drinking my protein shakes like this for over 20 years.
Please note that you should get the bulk of your daily protein from whole food sources such as fish, beef, chicken, eggs, etc.
For maximum muscle development, you should strive to get 1 to 1.5 grams of high quality protein per pound of body weight per day, every day. Yes, even days you do not work out. I would actually say ESPECIALLY non-workout days as this is when you are recovering and growing.
Great protein shake recipes are available to shake things up. Add fruit, flavoring, ice cream, yogurt, chocolate syrup and whatever else sounds good for a real treat.
Let me explain the reasons behind the outlined schedule.
First thing in the morning
When you wake up in the morning, your body has gone 6-9 hours without any nutrients. During the night, your body can start to break down muscle tissue to use as fuel if it does not have protein, carbs or fats in the bloodstream.
You want to stop this breakdown of muscle tissue as soon as possible when you wake up, and the quickest way to do that is to drink a protein shake!
What better way to start the day than by drinking a protein shake containing 22-25 grams (typically 1 scoop) of whey protein?
Besides, if you find the right brand, it is a really tasty treat.
My preferred brand and flavor is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey in Rich Double Chocolate flavor…yum! I like a lot of others as well, but seem to come back to Optimum more and more.
My favorite simple shake recipe is just to add frozen or fresh strawberries.
Immediately after a workout
After an intense workout, your muscles are primed to absorb protein to begin the rebuilding (growing) process. This is arguably the best time to drink a whey protein shake loaded with 25-50 grams (1-2 scoops) of high quality whey protein powder. You should drink this shake within 30-90 minutes of your workout.
On non-workout days, I recommend taking a shake in the middle of the day as a between meal snack.
Last thing before bed
Right before you go to bed, you’re about to starve your muscles of protein all night, so drink a casein protein shake to feed them for the next 6-8 hours. Casein protein is perfect at this time as it takes much longer to digest and will be available longer to feed your muscles.
During sleep is when your muscles do a most of their recovering and growing, so you want to be sure the necessary building blocks (protein!) are present. Don’t miss this crucial protein feeding.
If you really want to keep protein in your bloodstream all the time, set your alarm to wake you at 3 AM and have a Ready-to-drink shake by your bed. Some top bodybuilders do this so they can be sure their bodies never run out of muscle building protein!
My personal night time protein shake is Syntha-6 by BSN. This is actually a blend of several types of protein and has the best taste of any protein shake I have tried so far. Because of the casein protein, this shake will be thicker and creamier than a whey protein shake, and will taste AWESOME!
So be sure you are following the best times to drink protein shakes guidelines and you will get the most from your hard work in the gym!
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