When you first start out on your fitness journey, supplements like protein shakes, pre-workout, and creatine can be overwhelming. It may be difficult to determine what to take and when to take it.
Although many people believe that you should only drink protein powder after a workout, during your so-called “anabolic window,” studies show that this is not always the case.
Some people prefer the convenience of a protein shake on workout days, especially if you increase your overall calorie or protein consumption on those days.
There are reasons why you might prefer to drink protein shakes only on workout days, but rest days are also important for getting proper nutrition. Protein, along with carbohydrates and fats, is required for rest and recovery to support tissue healing and muscle growth. We'll go over the benefits of protein, why people drink protein shakes, and whether you need one on rest days.
Why People Drink Protein Shakes
Protein shakes are mostly consumed for the sake of convenience. The majority of people can get enough protein from food, but with jobs, school, kids, and other responsibilities, life can sometimes get in the way of getting enough food, protein, and nutrients.
Protein powder, which is available in milk (whey or casein) or plant-based (pea, hemp, brown rice, pumpkin seed) varieties, typically contains 25 to 30 grams of protein per serving. Given that evidence suggests that you should consume anywhere from 20 to 40 grams of protein at a time, this amount easily fits into most eating plans.
Protein shakes were once primarily consumed by bodybuilders, but they have since become more popular. Protein shakes can help add an extra lump of protein after a long or busy day if you are on a fitness journey and want to gain more muscle, but they are not required.
If your sole goal in the gym is to gain muscle, some research suggests that you should be in a calorie surplus or “bulk,” which means you will have more room in your diet for whole foods high in protein and may not need to use supplementation to achieve your macro goals.
Protein is essential if you want to lose weight on your fitness journey. Many protein powders are low in calories and high in protein, making them an excellent addition to your daily diet. If you want to lose weight, most experts agree that protein should account for about 30% of your calories.
How many protein shakes should you have a day?
The number of protein shakes you should drink per day is determined by the amount of protein in each shake and the amount of protein you get from other foods. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or slightly more than 7 grams per 20 pounds of body weight. However, keep in mind that protein shakes are meant to be supplements, so one protein shake per day should be more than enough if you eat healthily and get the majority of your protein naturally.
Should you drink a protein shake before a workout or post-workout?
It doesn't matter if you drink your shake before or after your workout as long as you consume protein at some point during your workout. In fact, in a 2017 study, researchers divided 21 men into two groups and gave each group a 25-gram protein shake. Both groups completed a whole-body workout three times per week for ten weeks, but one group received their protein shake immediately before their workout, while the other received it afterward. Researchers discovered no significant differences in muscle strength or size between the groups at the end of the study, implying that it doesn't matter whether you drink a protein shake before or after training — as long as you have it within a few hours of your workout.
Consider taking a pre-workout supplement if you find you need a boost before exercising rather than just afterward to ensure you get the most out of your workout from start to finish.
Should you drink protein shakes on rest days?
The bottom line is that you should never use protein powder. Whole foods contain just as much, if not more, protein and other nutrients. Instead, make sure you eat a well-balanced diet. Using protein powder in place of other naturally derived protein sources such as eggs, fish, and chickpeas may result in nutrient deficiencies over time.
Protein shakes, on the other hand, are a great tool if you have a busy life and don't have a lot of time to prepare meals but still want to have a high protein diet. Whether you are training or resting, you should consume up to twice as much protein as the RDA per day. While the data on when you should consume protein is inconclusive, there is no doubt that eating adequate amounts of protein on a daily basis will increase muscle mass over time.