Welcome to the most comprehensive article on when to take whey protein. I will answer these questions:
What is whey protein?
Should I use it before workouts?
Should I use it during a workout?
How should I take whey protein after workouts?
Is it a good idea to take whey protein at night, before bed?
How often should I take whey protein?
What Is Whey Protein?
Here’s a breakdown of what you should know about whey protein, and protein in general:
Whey protein is a protein that is easier and quicker to absorb than protein found in most foods. While this is convenient, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is better than foods.
Background: Protein is required to repair the muscle tears formed from from strenuous and intense exercise. When you put stress on your muscles, you cause tears that actually break down your muscles. Technically, yes — this means that by working out, you are causing your muscles to become weaker.
How can protein in general help? When you consume protein (whether it be whey, soy, etc.) the tears get repaired. Not only do these tears get repaired to their original state, but, rather, the tears are then more adaptive to exercise, thus leading to strength gains.
Lastly, let’s not forget that the appropriate amounts of carbohydrates and fats are also required to build muscle and strength.
Before a Workout
While taking protein before a training routine may be good for you, taking it immediately before a workout won’t actually have any effect during your workout. That is, if you don’t give it enough time to interact with your body. In other words, don’t expect to drink a protein shake 2 minutes before working out and feel like Superman. From my experience, I would recommend that you try to drink it at least an hour beforehand.
By having protein in your system before working out, you’re allowing the protein to kickstart the repair process. So, when you start to tear down muscles, the protein will already be there to start repairing them. Another way to think of this is to treat it like an early post-workout meal.
During a Workout
This is an interesting topic, because there are several factors that might lead you to stay away from consuming protein during the workout. One of them being that:
Whenever you consume anything, your stomach requires extra blood to be pumped to it to digest and metabolize the food. This might be a problem (although, not a big one) when trying to work out. If the blood is being focused on your stomach partially, then it won’t be used for other purposes such as assisting in exercising.
This probably concerns weight lifters far more than than it would cardio folk. In cardio, you may need the extra boost of energy to keep going. But, for lifting, when the work is shorter and more intense, you may not be maximizing on the benefits of your training routine if you have blood pumping to other places.