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Protein Before or After Workout?

by Will Grumke July 20, 2018 6 min read

Everyone understands that protein is important for working out.

But do you know when the best time to take protein is?

Should you drink a protein shake before your workout or after a workout?

In this article, we’ll give a brief introduction to protein and the types of protein that are available, as well as the different ways that you can take protein. We'll also discuss whether you should take protein before or after your workout.

What Is Protein?

Protein is one of the three macronutrients all humans need. Besides protein, the other two macronutrients are fats and carbohydrates. Whereas carbs give you energy and fat helps protect cells and nerves (as well as give you energy), protein helps repair and build your body.

Your muscles, hair, and skin are all made up of protein. You need protein to maintain the regular function of your body and if you plan on exercising or working out to make it stronger, you'll need even more protein. The stronger you get, and the larger your body’s muscles become, the more protein you will need to maintain and strengthen them.

Protein is made of amino acids which are chemical compounds that your body uses as raw materials for maintenance and healing. There are both essential and nonessential amino acids that make up the protein in your body. Essential amino acids are chemical compounds that your body can’t make on its own, meaning it needs to get these protein blocks from somewhere else.

The essential amino acids are:

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Lysine
  • Histidine

Each of these essential amino acids plays a different role in your body chemistry, and so it’s important that you get the right amount of each for your body’s needs. Even the average person who doesn't exercise may struggle to hit their protein needs for the day. If you’re going to exercise by doing cardio, sports conditioning, or strength training, you’ll need even more protein than that.

This is why you see so many protein supplements on the market. Most health-conscious people know that their regular meals don’t give them enough of the protein that their bodies need.

Because of the wide variety of proteins your body needs, 1st Phorm has created a line of quality protein supplements. We want to help you keep your body in optimal health whether you’re working out or recovering and we know you will need quality protein supplements to do that.

Protein Before Or After A Workout – Which is Better?

Now that you know the basics and benefits of protein, you probably want to know, “When is the best time to take protein, before or after a workout?”

The answer is, it depends. The time that you should take your protein depends on the type of protein you’re taking, as well as, the purpose of that protein. With that being said, generally one of the most important times to give your body protein is directly after your workout.

Types Of Protein Supplements

Since protein is made of different kinds of amino acids, not all protein is the same. Some proteins contain some amino acids, but are missing other amino acids. These are called incomplete proteins. Protein sources that contain all the amino acids are called complete proteins.

It’s essential that your diet combines food and gets you the complete proteins your body needs.

Most of the foods you eat are incomplete proteins. This is why you need to eat rice with beans or peanut butter with whole grain bread. Eating these food combinations creates complete protein meals, because each food contains the amino acids that the other is missing.

Even though complete proteins are important, it’s not always necessary to consume complete proteins. Since each amino acid does something specific for the body, sometimes you only need to increase your intake of those specific aminos. In fact, that’s why pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout protein supplements are formulated the way they are. Each supplement is designed with specific amino acids that are helpful in these specific situations.

Let’s look at BCAAs for example.

BCAA stands for branched chain amino acid. BCAAs are an intra-workout protein supplement that you either take in the middle of your workout or right before you start exercising. Basically, you don’t need to wait for your body to start digesting BCAAs before you start exercising.

BCAAs contain three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

The amino acids in these proteins help your body’s muscles in a couple of ways. First, they improve your body’s ability to use energy, making your workout more efficient. Second, these amino acids restore the protein that your body’s muscles use for energy to refill them when they’d normally be empty. Third, these amino acids help improve your recovery by minimizing the healing process so you don’t take as much time to recover.

These are just three of the benefits of the amino acids found in BCAAs, and there are many more.

If you’re looking to improve your endurance, increase your energy, and improve your recovery time, it makes sense that you would take BCAAs during your workout. That’s what they’re formulated for.

So remember, if you’re asking yourself, “When is the best time to take this protein supplement,” look into the purpose of the protein, and take it accordingly.

So When Do I Take Protein Shakes – Before Or After Working Out

Protein shakes are their own subset of supplements. There are different types of proteins and protein shakes that would be considered more ideal for situations like pre-workout, intra-workout, or post-workout. Therefore, you will want to make sure you are not just looking at your protein shake as a large source of easy-to-digest protein, but instead, understand why you are taking that protein at that time of your day.

So when do you drink protein shakes?

Protein powder is not necessarily meant to give you energy during a workout, rather it is a necessary macronutrient that you need adequate amounts of to earn the results you're after. Protein powders are designed to give your body the protein it needs to build itself up after a hard workout. Protein powder can also help you maintain muscle mass.

With this in mind, it makes sense to drink your protein shake after a workout, not before.

After you’re done working out, your body is going to start the healing process to rebuild your body’s muscles. The healing process is kind of a defense mechanism in that way. Your body wants to grow bigger and stronger so that physical exertion becomes less taxing.

To do this, it will need to draw from a large source of easily accessible protein.

That’s where protein powder comes in. Using a high-quality protein shake quickly gives your body a source of this easily-accessible protein, making it very easy and convenient to give your body the protein it needs. 

However, muscle atrophies. Muscle can atrophy from a lack of consistent exercise, or it can atrophy because of a lack of maintenance. If you’re not getting the protein you need, your body is going to have a hard time maintaining its muscle size and strength.

So, you don't need to just drink protein shakes after your workout exclusively. Actually, you can drink them throughout the week too. Remember, protein is a macronutrient and most people do not fulfill their daily requirements of that macronutrient and thus … never earn the results they want. If you need help fulfilling those protein demands then look into Level-1 or Vegan Power Pro.

Treat your nutrition like you do your workout.

Keep it consistent. Keep it appropriate. Keep it going.

This will help give your body the consistent stream of protein it needs to help it maintain muscle mass and strength.

1st Phorm Can Help You Meet Your Protein Needs

1st Phorm can help you get the appropriate amount of protein with our line of 1st Phorm protein powders.  Our protein powders have a fantastic amino acid balance that is designed to help you gain muscle, recover from a workout, repair damaged muscle tissue, and maintain weight loss.

Our protein powders are made with low-temperature processed whey protein (except the Vegan Power Pro), which maximizes the amount of bio-available protein found in each and every shake.

Try our different protein options today.

Will Grumke
Will Grumke

NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer