Is it better to use whey protein pre or post workout?

  • I am a 17 year old athlete, and am trying to build muscle effectively. I workout maybe 3-4 times a week for an hour with a combination of running, pushups, crunches, lifting and chin ups in varying order. I am working to increase my endurance as well as mass and strength and I often drink whey protein after workouts, but some of my friends drink it pre workout. I wanted to ask the community if it is more effective or efficient to drink it pre or post workout to maximize muscle gain.

  • jp2code

    jp2code Correct answer

    7 years ago

    Having a protein before your workout will allow you to have more energy, resulting in your workouts feeling stronger, but you will not burn as much fat when you workout.

    After your workouts, it is commonly accepted that your body acts like a sponge for about an hour while your muscles attempt to collect nutrients to repair what was torn down during the workout. That is why it is important to have a quality source of protein immediately after your workouts.

    I would tend to say having your protein after your workouts is more important.

    If you are fat and/or you had a decent meal within the last 3 or 4 hours, that protein drink before a workout is not really needed because your body has energy stored up and ready to burn.

    If you are very lean and/or cutting calories to drop some weight, then you are likely to show up at the gym with no energy. To prevent this, take 10 to 25 grams of protein 30 to 60 minutes before going to the gym. This does not need to be 100% protein, and it would even be good to have some carbs in there to help make you feel pumped in the gym.

    That being said, I should probably start taking a little protein before I go to the gym in the morning because my body has fasted for 6 to 8 hours during my sleep. (Note to self...)

    Wouldn't you need carbs for quicker energy?

    @Esqarrouth, that depends. If you are already overweight, you need to burn the fat that is already on your body. Adding carbs will just make a fat person fatter. If you are working out in the morning, your body already has a fairly good supply of carbs in your system ready to go. On the other hand, if you have very low body fat or you have spent your energy reserves at work already, adding carbs for quick energy helps a lot.

    Without easy accessible energy wouldn't workouts, at least weightlifting also use muscles as energy as well as fats?

    @Esqarrouth, only if you are talking extreme energy usage. Not in general, though. The sports drink makers over hype this for the public.

    Can you give me an example of extreme energy usage?

    @Esqarrouth, I'd say Olympians, someone competing in a body building competition, or anything that maintains 80-90% of your maximum heart rate for longer than 30 minutes at a time.

    Can you provide scientific sources for "body acts like a sponge for about an hour..."? Because other people say that most of the muscle repair is done while you sleep.

    @problemofficer - you didn't quote all of it. You want me to provide scientific sources for something that is "commonly accepted". Good luck with that.

    @jp2code: Then your answer is not reliable and I would downvote if I could, because "commonly accepted" is not a scientifically based argument. I read several other Q/As on this topic and it seems that there is no conclusive research and strong indications that the time of consumption is irrelevant.

    @problemofficer: I did not say my answer was reliable. I said it was commonly accepted. There are several sources that back this commonly accepted claim (see this internet search result), but none of these list sources - as I did not either.

    @problemofficer: Yes, muscle repair is primarily done during sleep, but that is not when the body absorbs nutrients. Immediately after a workout, a body is depleted and looks to fill that void.

  • Divide your dose. Have some before and some after your workout. Unlike fat and carbohydrates your body can't store protein. If it doesn't get absorbed it gets passed through your digestive tract, your liver, your kidneys, etc. This not only wastes protein/ supplements and money it also taxes your machine by forcing it to process something that it can't use.

    Analyse and calculate your protein needs very carefully and try to meet them without going over. Once you've calculated what you'll need divide that up into doses throughout the day. Use more on workout days before and after workouts. Don't forget to include the protein in the food you consume in your calculations.

    Remember more frequent smaller doses are better than infrequent large doses. Why? Because you can't store the protein!

    Absolutely true. My only concern is that your answer asserts that he'll digest all of his protein by the time he's done working out - which is unlikely. But your suggestion to have frequent smaller doses during the day is an awesome suggestion - it just doesn't have to be every 15 minutes. (jk) Eating every two hours is a good way to be and to paraphrase Lee Priest, eat your protein from food.

    @ Dan Andrews Yes I guess I should have mentioned that every 15 minutes would be overkill and when possible it's best to get all your nutrition from food.

    Sometimes people read things and think that if they take it to the extreme it would be better. Eating every 2 hours is good. Eating every 15 minutes (not that you suggest this) is not better. Your answer is absolutely correct. It is like taking b12. 1000mcg is good and you will excrete the extra. Taking 3000mcg does nothing, you will just excrete it.

    @DanAndrews agreed. Please feel free to edit my answer to clarify that. I have no problem with it whatsoever.

    I just feel like pointing out that there's no evidence that a higher meal frequency is better for nutrient utilization. Or at least noone pointed that evidence out to me yet, feel free to do so.

    While it's true that the body can't store "protein", that doesn't mean it is just flushed out. Protein is digested into amino acids, and any excess of those are converted to other usable molecules through deamination.

    @LarissaGodzilla no one said "higher meal frequency is better for NUTRIENT UTILIZATION" were talking about the body's ability to utilize and store protein. There is Ann abundance of evidence easily available about the body's ability to store protein.

    @JohnP what are these other usable molecules that excess amino acids are converted to? Could you provide sine more info on that? Are you suggesting that there's no such thing as too much protein and that excess isn't eliminated by the body and taxing the organs responsible for filtration?

    @hortstu: Might be that we have a different definition of 'utilization'. What I meant was along the lines of what JohnP said. That aside, you might want to consider _not_ using all caps as it's considered yelling and I don't like being yelled at.

    @LarissaGodzilla sorry you thought I was yelling at you. I capitalized two words for emphasis. I was not "yelling" at you.

  • To answer your question specifically: it doesn't matter. Studies show that the average amount of protein taken in over a given period of time(days, weeks)is what matters far more than getting your whey in before or after. The body does not really become magically more efficient at using protein after a workout. As long as you're hitting your daily intake spread out amongst reasonable servings(instead of trying to consume 80g of protein all at once)each day you'll be fine.

    Remember the 80/20 rule. 80% of the results actually come from 20% of the things that matter.

    The 1 hour post workout window is actually a thinly substantiated myth. If you ACTUALLY want to focus on getting your protein in after a work out then just make sure you get it in at some point in the following 24 hours. I'm not kidding:

    Another good reason dispelling some myths:

    Serious conflicts of interests with your sources. Don't you think a protein powder company is going to proliferate any information that sells more protein? Same with a bodybuilding website that sells protein?

    Wrong from start to finish. Review paper from the Journal of Sports Nutrition, 2013:

    @JohnP What, exactly, is wrong?

  • Agree Christopher, pre/post doesn't matter.

    If you are eating enough protein, you will likely still be digesting protein when you workout and for the next few hours after.

    Do what makes you feel better. Pre will give you more energy, but I personally do IF and lift fasted, waiting till after I workout for my first meal. Sometimes its a shake, sometimes its chicken or shake.

    I also prefer to get as much of my nutrients, including protein, in as close to whole form as possible. This means if I can meet my protein requirements of 240g/day eating meat, there is no benefit at all to taking whey. If I have enough carbs/fat in my macros, I may drink a whole quart of whole or skim milk. Only if I am too busy to cook or too full do I use whey.

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