This commonly asked question has no universal answer…
The best time to take protein depends on you and your specific health goals.
1. If you take protein in the morning
BENEFIT A: Weight Loss
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that taking protein early in the morning gives a feeling of fullness and reduces appetite and snacking. Take a low carb protein shake in the morning to reduce hunger and help boost your metabolism. Better yet, blend a scoop of soy protein in with some almond milk, blueberries, spinach and a banana for a great superfood breakfast.
BENEFIT B: Supports Strength and Muscle Mass
Catabolism is relatively common among athletes. It is caused by over-training and under-eating. In short, catabolism happens when your body needs a food source for energy, has none to draw on, so starts to use your muscles as fuel. Needless to say, this is bad for an athlete. A 2006 study from Victoria University showed that taking protein first thing in the morning increased both overall muscle mass AND strength for athletes when compared to a control group who had no protein with breakfast.
Worried about bulking up after your breakfast shake? You need not worry – unless your diet is rich in carbs and your fitness regime is designed to help you build muscle, you are unlikely to bulk up after a protein shake for breakfast.
2. If you take protein throughout the day
BENEFIT A: More Energy
Find yourself nodding off mid-afternoon? The reason could be that your diet lacks long-lasting energy. Try splitting your 3 (large) main meals for 5 smaller ones, eating every 3 hours. Make sure your 5 meals contain protein. If not a shake, then a tin of tuna or a fistful of nuts can be an easy way to grab some protein in a meal.
BENEFIT B: Weight Loss
A 2005 study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that participants who got 30% of their daily energy intake from protein felt less hungry and lost more weight.
3. If you take protein before training
BENEFIT: More Effective Workouts
Many proteins contain high levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s). These help maintain muscle glycogen stores. Glycogen provides energy to the body… more glycogen means more energy. A pre-workout snack of a protein shake plus a complex carbohydrate like brown rice or oats 45 minutes before exercise can give the energy needed to go harder during workouts. Alternatively, try our Brown Rice Protein with Chia and Pea before training for a shake that delivers pre-workout carbs and BCAA’s and for fuel plus readily absorbed brown rice protein for recovery.
4. If you take protein after training
BENEFIT: Recovery and Growth
A 2001 study published in American Journal of Physiology showed that post exercise is when your muscles are crying out for amino acids the most and are therefore most likely to absorb protein. The benefits of a post-workout protein hit for muscle growth and/or recovery are well documented. Give your muscles the fuel they need to recover by consuming protein after your workout. A 2013 study from the University of Tampa studied the effectiveness of brown rice protein vs whey protein in helping post-exercise recovery. The study noted that “there were no differences between the two groups”. Given that whey contains lactose (which can cause bloating, wind, nausea and diarrhoea in some people), brown rice protein is an ideal post-workout protein.
5. If you take protein before bed
BENEFIT: Recovery and Muscle Growth
A 2012 study from Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands revealed that protein supplements taken directly before bed time do, in fact, get digested or used by your muscles while you sleep. This can boost overnight recovery and muscle growth.
This article was produced Naturesway and their online health partners, Health365.