When Is the Best Time to Take Protein?

Did you know that most adults require approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day?

If you’re an 80kg (176 lbs) adult male, you need about 65 grams of protein per day to live a healthy life.

Selection of protein foods including protein shake

However, if you’re a bodybuilder, your body requires a higher amount of protein to build muscle mass as well as to maintain it.

Luckily, you can get protein from many sources, including supplements. In fact, there are numerous types of protein supplements available on the market and each of them has their pros and cons.

Whether you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey and want to learn the basics or you’re a bodybuilder and want to know how to maximize your gains, keep reading this article to learn more about protein and when it’s the best time to take it.

What is Protein?

Proteins are also known as the building blocks of life.

They consist of chains of amino acids and circulate throughout your body for tissue repair or growth. Your body produces multiple types of protein which can be used for various purposes.

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’re interested in protein to help you with your fitness goals. Getting enough protein in your system helps you build more muscle mass. At the same time, protein is also required to maintain your muscles throughout your life.

If you regularly work out and you train to get big, you’ll eventually need to get much more protein than the recommended daily intake. The body of a bodybuilder has different protein requirements in comparison with the rest of the male population.

Great Benefits of Protein

As you probably already know, getting more protein into your body helps you build muscle mass quicker. At the same time, more protein will also help in healing those damaged joints, tendons, and ligaments.

But there are more benefits to protein supplementation. Here are just a few of them:

  • You have a lower risk of obesity – protein tends to make you feel full, so you don’t overeat on a regular basis. Also, replacing fats with protein is a good way to lose weight
  • Great for bone health – studies show that high-protein diets are associated with better bone health and a lower risk of fractures and osteoporosis
  • You have a faster metabolism – other studies have discovered that eating more protein accelerates your metabolism, so you’ll burn more calories throughout the day
  • Reduces the likelihood of late-night snacking – since protein gives you a sensation of satiety, you’ll be less likely to visit the fridge in the middle of the night for a quick snack

Types of Protein

Believe it or not, it is possible to get your daily protein requirements from diet alone, without using supplements.

However, it’s easier and much more convenient to also include protein supplements in your diet. These supplements are inexpensive, they can be mixed with shakes, juices or plain water and come in multiple flavors. Here are the most common protein supplements money can buy today:

Whey Protein

This is by far one of the most popular types of protein supplements. It is based on a dairy product and it has a quick absorption rate. Whey protein can get processed by the body in around 60-120 minutes, so it’s perfect to take after an intense workout. We take a closer look in our round-up review of the best whey protein available on the market today. If you are pushed for time then there are some great protein bars available.

Egg Protein

Eggs are some of the most complete products out there. They contain multiple vitamins and minerals as well as a significant amount of protein. Most of the eggs’ protein is in the whites. That’s why you see bodybuilders such as Sagi Kalev eating around 12 egg whites at breakfast.

With that being said, egg protein is quite oldschool and less popular than whey protein. However, it still has multiple benefits and you can take it before going to bed as it gets absorbed slower and it helps your body build muscle during your sleep. Some bodybuilders use a combination of whey and egg protein on a daily basis. The egg protein supplement provides a high dose of protein many hours after finishing your workout.

Casein Protein

This is another type of dairy-based protein supplement. Casein is a component found in milk. Casein protein is slowly absorbed by the body and it contains multiple amino acids required to build muscle. You can confidently take casein protein before going to bed.

Soy Protein

Although less popular than whey protein, soy protein is also good for bodybuilders. It has numerous amino acids in its structure and it’s a plant-based supplement. You can take it before or after a strenuous workout.

Hemp Protein

This type of protein supplement is also ideal for bodybuilders, although it contains less lysine which is an important amino acid. Still, hemp protein is rich in fiber and essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6. Hemp protein is also great for vegetarians and vegans.

These are just a few types of protein supplements available out there. You can try them out and see which one fits your particular preferences and needs as a bodybuilder.

Pea Protein

Pea protein is made from yellow peas and it’s usually used in smoothies and shakes. It contains all the essential amino acids your body requires and it can be easily digested by the body. Pea protein is also rich in iron and an ideal supplement for those who have anemia caused by iron deficiency.

So, When Should I Take My Protein?

Now you have your protein, you’re fired up to build more muscle, but when should you take your supplements? Before workout? After workout? In between?

Let’s look at these scenarios and talk about them at length.

Pre-workout

Many bodybuilders take protein shake right before hitting the gym.
This is a fairly common bodybuilding practice because the protein supplement gives you an extra energy boost while working out. For best results, go for whey protein which is easily absorbed by the body. Taking whey protein 60 to 120 minutes before training is one of the best ways to maximize your gains in the gym.

Post-workout

In a similar fashion, bodybuilders also take protein supplements after they leave the gym.

This is the most important moment to take protein since your body requires resources to repair the muscle tissues damaged while working out.

When you work out in the gym, your muscles break down at microscopic level. The muscle tissue gets deteriorated and the body needs protein to build those tissues back again. The first 30 to 60 minutes after a workout is known as the “anabolic window”, a moment when the muscles “crave” protein.

By getting a protein shake after your training, you’re supplying your muscles with adequate nutrients to start the reconstruction process. As a result, your muscle fibers will grow bigger and stronger. This is how you put on muscle mass and you can go for both whey or egg protein after leaving the gym.

Many bodybuilders get some carbohydrate with their post-workout protein shakes. The carbohydrate is required to supply instant energy while the protein gets used to repair muscle tissue. For example, you can add oats to your protein shake to help you recover better after training.

Morning

Having a protein shake early in the morning can be beneficial for most bodybuilders, especially if you’re in a rush.

A morning protein supplement can supply the muscles with a quick dose of energy and if you hit the gym right away, you’ll enjoy a better and more intense workout. It’s advisable to also combine your protein shake with some sort of carbohydrate such as a banana or an apple for a great energy boost.

Taking protein early in the morning also kickstarts your metabolism, so your body is already burning calories while you’re getting ready for your day.

Night

You probably already know that muscles grow during your sleep, right?

In this case, wouldn’t be logical to supply your muscles with “fuel” (protein) to grow muscle fibers back while you’re sleeping? Of course, it would!

Many bodybuilders take about 30-40 grams of protein right before bed. This can come from dietary sources or from supplements. In this case, you should go for protein which is slowly absorbed by the body such as egg or casein protein.

These protein supplements provide a steady supply of nutrients to your body over many hours. As a result, your body is “fed” for the entire duration of your sleep. Whey protein is also a good option, but this type of protein usually gets absorbed very quickly by the body and that’s why it’s more useful before a workout.

Between Meals

Many bodybuilders drink a protein shake several times a day.

This can be done before a workout, after a workout, before bed and also in between meals.

In fact, if you’re training to lose weight, you might want to get a protein supplement between your meals.

Studies show that protein has the ability to reduce hunger symptoms. This is done by decreasing the levels of the hunger hormone called ghrelin. In other words, if you have enough protein in your body, this gives you a feeling of satiety and you’re more likely to eat fewer calories during that day.

Therefore, if you’re on a cutting diet and you need to be in a caloric deficit, make sure that you supply your body with a steady amount of protein from supplements. Drinking a protein shake during lunchtime makes you less likely to gorge when dinner is served.

However, you can take protein supplements in between meals even if you’re not dieting to lose weight. Remember that protein is the building block of life, so having more in your body makes you feel better, stronger and healthier.

During A Workout

In some cases, it can be a great idea to take a protein supplement during your exercise session.

For example, if you’re an endurance athlete, you need a steady supply of fuel to power those muscles for long periods of time. In this case, drinking a protein shake is one of the best things you can do.

Getting more protein while you’re training helps with your performance and recovery. Whether you’re a marathoner, you compete in the Tour de France or you’re a professional swimmer, a protein shake can be the right thing at the right time!

You can go for whey protein supplements which give you extra strength almost immediately. You can also go for egg or casein protein at the beginning of your workout to have more energy throughout the training session. Try both of these scenarios and see which one is more suitable for you.

While You’re Resting

Whether you’re a professional bodybuilder or not, it’s important to take one or two days off from time to time.

This is particularly important if you hit the gym on a regular basis and do resistance exercises to increase muscle mass. Putting a lot of tension and pressure on your body can cause significant deterioration, especially in the long run. Therefore, a few days off from time to time can be a blessing for your system, giving it a chance to recover and rebuild tissues.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should stop taking protein during those moments.

In fact, it’s advisable to also take protein supplements during your rest days. Remember that those muscles need to grow stronger and bigger, so providing your body with a steady amount of protein accomplishes this objective.

When you’re taking a day off, try to drink a protein shake at your breakfast. Some people have another protein supplement as an afternoon snack and one just before bed. The extra protein intake will benefit your body, helping those muscles tendons, joints and ligaments grow back stronger.

How Much Protein Should I Be Taking?

This is a good question.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day would be a good protein intake for most people.

However, bodybuilders and people that train intensely need much more than that. Depending on the intensity of the workout, their duration and other important factors, bodybuilders might require at least twice as much than regular people.

This means approximately 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Studies show that protein intakes up to 2 grams per kg per day can also be beneficial. Obviously, you’re slowly going to need more and more protein as your muscles grow and you are able to lift heavier weights, so you don’t have to start with that much right from the beginning of your bodybuilding career.

Is It Safe?

Some people believe that excessive amounts of protein can be harmful to your kidneys. This might make sense since protein is processed by these organs. The kidneys filtrate various toxins, impurities, and other unwanted substances while letting the protein to return in the bloodstream.

Getting more protein in your system means putting more stress on your kidneys, but this doesn’t mean they cannot cope with it. In fact, studies show that a high-protein diet doesn’t cause health problems in people with healthy kidneys.

With that being said, it’s important to note that if you already have kidney problems, a high-protein diet might not be recommended for you. People with renal disease should speak with their doctors before increasing their protein intake as this macronutrient might worsen their health condition.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are numerous health benefits associated with taking protein supplements as a bodybuilder. You will be able to recuperate quicker from workouts, have more energy and enjoy a stronger immune system.

The next logical step would be to pick your favourite protein supplement. If you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey, start with whey protein as your daily shake and use casein protein for your nighttime supplementation.

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