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When Should I Take Protein Powder? - What Time Is Best?

The truth is that protein powder will be beneficial at any time of the day, but to make the most of the benefits, the timing becomes pretty important. Whether your health and fitness goal is weight-loss or increasing muscle mass this may determine the time you want to take protein powder.

Spread Your Intake Throughout The Day

To keep your hunger in check and prevent you reaching out for sweets and snacks, consuming protein in the morning will help you feel fuller for longer.
Incorporating protein with each meal will also help create that feeling of fullness. In fact, experts recommend consuming 15-25g of protein at each main-meal (6).
Experts also suggest consuming 15-25g of protein in the two hours after exercise, as your muscles are at their most sensitive.
Recent studies suggest this sensitivity occurs for up to 24 hours post-exercise (6) meaning it’s important to consume protein all throughout the day, rather than just loading up for one big-protein meal. So what does this mean for your protein powder?

Complement Your Meals With Extra Protein

Aim to take your protein powder with meals where you wouldn’t otherwise be getting enough protein. Say for example you have a cooked breakfast, light salad for lunch and roast chicken and vegetables for dinner, by having your protein shake around that lunchtime meal you will successfully balance out your total intake across the day.

If gaining muscle is the end-goal, or preventing muscle loss, recent research leads us to believe that protein before bed could be effective. Studies have found when consuming a solid amount of protein before you go to sleep, the protein is effectively digested and absorbed which maximises muscle growth throughout the night (21).

Should I Take Protein After Working Out?

The Anabolic Window

The anabolic window is the period after exercise during which nutrition can shift the body from a catabolic state to an anabolic one.

In the two-hour window following exercise, muscles are regenerating and growing at their fastest rate so are most susceptible to amino acid uptake. This window you may have heard mentioned as the “anabolic window”. Having 20g of protein in this two-hour window will maximise the gains during this process. Ideally, protein should be consumed with carbohydrates at a ratio of 1:4.

 

 

Experts further suggest that if you have a short recovery window before your next workout, then aiming to get that 20g of protein down within the first 20-45 minutes after exercise will be the most beneficial.

 Sometimes, fitting your protein into the anabolic window just doesn’t happen when life gets in the way. Should you be worried? We wouldn’t suggest losing sleep over it, total protein intake over the course of a day is the most important factor for determining muscle size and strength regardless of the timing in which it’s consumed (22).

How Important Is Protein For Breakfast?

Kickstart Your Metabolism And Reduce Hunger

We often hear breakfast being talked about as the ‘most important meal of the day’. While this might not necessarily be the case, studies show us that people who eat breakfast have lower body weights than people who skip. 

Consuming protein at breakfast increases the release of satiety hormones, helping you feel fuller for longer. The calories will also jump start your metabolism.

With protein’s ability to create a feeling of fullness, it’s crucial to include protein in your breakfast meal to prevent feelings of hunger later on. A very high protein breakfast, compared to a high carbohydrate breakfast, has been shown to reduce levels of the hunger hormone – ghrelin (17), and increase daily fullness more than a normal-protein breakfast (18). Ghrelin is in charge of stimulating your appetite, making you want to eat.

This is great news for anyone wanting to manage their weight. A study in adolescents found that those who consumed a high protein breakfast  for 12 weeks maintained or even lost fat mass, whereas those who had a normal protein breakfast or skipped breakfast, gained fat mass (19).

Increase Focus

If you’re more of a night owl and find it hard to get up and go in the morning, protein might just make your life a little bit easier. Having a high protein drink at breakfast has been found to improve healthy people’s ability to cope with mental tasks (20).

High-Protein Breakfast Ideas

Don’t be concerned by thinking this means you need a big cook-up of bacon, eggs, sausages and baked beans each morning. Getting your breakfast protein fix can be as easy as combining those everyday dairy foods like high- protein yoghurt and milk, picking a breakfast wrap, egg scramble, protein pancake, smoothie bowl, or incorporating some protein powders into baked products and drinks.

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REFERENCES

18. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/97/4/677/4576985

19. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.21185

20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23591085

21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22330017

22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3879660/


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