Supplement companies would be happy if you drank whey protein shakes 3 times a day, but the truth is that protein shakes are more beneficial for your strength and size goals at certain times. There is no point wasting your money and protein powder by drinking it constantly, so read on to learn the most effective times.
(But they are effective at certain times)
Daily Protein Supplementation
Yes, you read that right. You’ll never hear those words from a supplement company, but research shows that taking protein every day (for example, with your breakfast) provides no strength gains and very little muscle gains (as shown in our previous article, Which Supplements are Effective for Muscle Gains). The reason for this is that the average bodybuilding diet already has sufficient protein, so an additional scoop of protein provides little benefit. However, there is a more appropriate time to take protein that does result in significant strength and muscle gains.
Protein Before and After Exercise
Taking 15-20g of whey protein before and after resistance training does result in significant strength and muscle gains. That is half a scoop before and half a scoop after training. So if you train 4 times per week you’ll only be consuming 4 scoops per week to receive the benefits of the supplement. If you would have otherwise been taking 2 scoops per day, that would be 14 scoops per week, 10 ineffective scoops, and 4 effective scoops (assuming you had them before or after your workout). So by knowing when to take your protein, you can cut your monthly protein bill from $60 to $17 (a 71% saving for a guy who previously took 2 scoops per day).
Protein After Exercise
Taking a full scoop after exercising rather than half before and half after is a fair alternative with roughly the same benefits. The reason for this is that muscle protein synthesis is started by the resistance exercise, and shifted further upward by the protein ingestion. If you had ingested the protein in the morning, the muscle protein synthesis would get started by the resistance training but receive no boost from the protein.
Optimal Protein Dosage
20-40g was found to be the optimal protein powder dosage after before and exercise. So taking half a scoop before and after, or a full scoop reaches the high end of that range recommendation.
Stop wasting your money taking protein powder in excess. If you are already consuming regular meals with sufficient protein, don’t bother taking an extra scoop of whey protein. But do make sure to take a scoop when you finish exercising.
- Effect of dietary supplements on lean mass and strength gains with resistance exercise: a meta-analysis. Steven L. Nissen and Rick L. Sharp [Go Up ↩]
- Acute and long-term effects of resistance exercise with or without protein ingestion on muscle hypertrophy and gene expression. Hulmi JJ, Kovanen V, Selänne H, Kraemer WJ, Häkkinen K, Mero AA [Go Up ↩]
- Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. D. S. Willoughby, J. R. Stout, C. D. Wilborn [Go Up ↩]
- Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Juha J Hulmi, Christopher M Lockwood and Jeffrey R Stout [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩]