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Protein is essential for building bigger and stronger muscles, but the timing of your intake depends on your own nutritional needs.
Dedication to proper nutrition before and after your workouts is key to helping you move well and making them effective. If your plan for doing so includes a protein shake, the question naturally becomes...
The truth is, there isn't a right or wrong answer.
"It really depends on your goals and when you ate your last meal prior to working out," says Marie Spano, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., consulting sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Braves and lead author of Nutrition for Sport, Exercise, and Health. "If you want to maximally build muscle, you should have a protein-rich meal (or shake) every three to five hours throughout the day."
A 2014 study in The Journal of Nutrition shows that muscle protein synthesis (the process of using protein to build muscle) increases when you consume a moderate amount of protein—around 30 grams per meal—throughout the day versus eating the recommended daily amount (0.8 to 1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight) at once, like at dinner. So whether you work out in the morning or evening, it's best practice to evenly spread out your protein intake, and you can do it with a shake if it's more convenient for you.
That's because it's not so much about the timing of your protein consumption, but the total amount of protein consumed daily, says Mona Cabrera, M.S., R.D. "If you prefer your protein shake before your workout versus after, that will be just as beneficial to you. If you are trying to gain muscle and strength, drinking your protein shake before or after your workout doesn't matter like it was once believed," she says.
In fact, a 2017 study in PeerJ tested the effects of pre- and post-workout protein intake on hypertrophy (increase in muscle size), strength, and body composition. It found that both pre- and post-workout protein consumption produced similar effects.