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Mike Roussell, Ph.D.
Nutritional consultant and author

Ask The Macro Manager

"SHOULD I DRINK MY PROTEIN SHAKE
Before or after my workout?"

Ask The Macro Manager: Should I Drink Protein Before Or After A Workout?

People think of post-workout protein as the Holy Grail of workout nutrition. What about the pre-workout shake? Learn why you should never skip it!
Q

Should I drink my protein shake pre- or post-workout?

You can take in protein or amino acids pre- and post-workout, but if I absolutely had to pick one time, I'd say pre-workout. Sacrilege, you say! If you're more upset than a cat kicked off a ledge, give me time to explain before you claw my face off.

Post-workout shakes have long been considered the most important pieces of the workout nutrition puzzle. Recent research suggests, however, that ingesting protein and amino acids prior to training may be even more beneficial.

Hang in there, kitty. Here's why:

Fuel Your Muscles

Pre-workout protein, specifically the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), will help fuel your muscles during training. BCAAs don't need to be processed by your liver; after being absorbed, they head directly to your blood stream to be picked up by your muscles.

This is key because exercise causes the breakdown and oxidation of BCAAs. Providing BCAAs to working muscles will prevent the need for your body to catabolize the working muscle itself.

Increase Protein Synthesis

Adding protein prior to your training session primes the pump: It starts protein synthesis during rather than after your training session.

Pre-workout protein most likely increases amino acid delivery and uptake by muscles during training.

Taken alone or as part of a complete protein, BCAAs inhibit muscle breakdown. So net protein synthesis is elevated even higher!

Burn More Calories

A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise found that one scoop of whey protein prior to working out increased calorie burning over the subsequent 24 hours.

The exact cause of this increase in calorie burning is unknown, but it may be due to the added metabolic effects of increasing protein and modifying substrates (energy sources) used during exercise.

Don't wait for the eggheads: It's okay to reap the benefits of the what (increased calorie burning!) without knowing the why (exact metabolic cause).

Carryover Effect

There is also a carryover effect of nutrients taken in the pre-workout period. After ingesting protein, muscle protein synthesis can stay elevated as long as 3 hours.

This means that pre-workout protein allows you to double dip: You reap the benefits of elevated blood amino acids during your training session in addition to a carryover of elevated blood amino acid levels after your workout.

This elevation of blood amino acids will also help prevent excessive post-workout muscle breakdown.

This occurs partly through the reduction of the muscle-catabolizing hormone cortisol. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that starting your workout nutrition with a protein-and-carbohydrate shake 30 minutes prior to exercise led to a significant reduction in cortisol up to one day following the training session.

Fat-Burning Bonus

Taking protein (specifically BCAAs) alone before a workout is extremely beneficial during a low-carb diet. The consumption of pre-workout BCAAs, especially when glycogen levels are low (as they are during a low-carb diet), leads to an increase in fat oxidation (fat burning) during high-intensity exercise like interval training or metabolic resistance training.

The Winner: Pre-Workout Protein

The nutrients you ingest around your workouts are extremely critical to developing and refining your physique. If you skip pre-workout protein, you skip a chance to support intra-workout anabolism (muscle growth AND reduce post-workout catabolism (muscle breakdown).

Provided that you're getting adequate dietary protein throughout the day, I recommend BCAAs pre-workout. Their free form offers much faster absorption and uptake, which means your blood amino levels will be high when you hit the training floor.


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About The Author

Author, speaker, and nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical habits...

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jtortorich

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jtortorich

Nice article, BCAA will be a good supplement to add before my workout when i take a break from my other "pre-workout" mix.

Jul 26, 2012 10:57am | report
 
gorana

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gorana

I take BCAA before my workout but not alone - i have breakfast (30g oats

Jul 26, 2012 11:38am | report
 
BuildThis13

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BuildThis13

I need some advice I need some advice on what to do I need to lose about 8-10lb and start to build muscle.

Jul 10, 2013 10:09am | report
BuildThis13

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BuildThis13

I need some advice I need some advice on what to do I need to lose about 8-10lb and start to build muscle.

Jul 10, 2013 10:09am | report
BuildThis13

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BuildThis13

I need some advice I need some advice on what to do I need to lose about 8-10lb and start to build muscle.

Jul 10, 2013 10:09am | report
ecedeno

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ecedeno

Nice Article!!

Jul 26, 2012 1:04pm | report
 
RUNNER14

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RUNNER14

awesome article but how long before a workout should i take it 30-60 minutes prior ??

Jul 26, 2012 4:57pm | report
 
Eric9185

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Eric9185

30 min

Aug 9, 2012 6:21am | report
fascismforfun

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fascismforfun

15mins is all you need for your body to start processing the BCAA's and proteins. As well as the carbs if you are using high glycemic.

Aug 9, 2012 4:00pm | report
jclarke531

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jclarke531

30 minutes

Feb 20, 2014 10:50am | report
Adrian77

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Adrian77

If you ate egg whites or fish 30-60 mins prior to training, you'd get the same result. Chicken about 1-2 hours prior.

If you are " getting adequate dietary protein throughout the day", your blood aminos will already be high. Just another tainted article trying to sell you something you don't need.

Jul 28, 2012 2:56am | report
 
andrewbeniston

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andrewbeniston

Was about to right a comment saying how this is all totally not needed, but looks like you've done it for me. Just trying to sell you more supplements to waste, if you get it in your diet there is no need.

Jul 28, 2012 2:58pm | report
Endureign

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Endureign

adrian, you are on the money...a good diet always trumps supplements

Jul 28, 2012 3:25pm | report
fascismforfun

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fascismforfun

Absolutely true. However, I have to use a protein shake before my workouts because I workout within 15 minutes of waking. So I have been running on about 12-18g of casein for 7-9 hours of sleep and need further protein and amino acids immediately available for strength training. You don't need a ton like many people say though. Actually there are studies that show about 10-15g of protein is good to get you through a 45-60 minute session.

Aug 9, 2012 4:03pm | report
HeartofaLion

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HeartofaLion

All Im getting from this article is BCAA pre is good..

Does that mean that I dont have to take a protein shake like say... 1 scoop ON in 8oz milk?

Also what is better? a traditional protein shake or a scoop of xtend?

Jul 28, 2012 1:03pm | report
 
NorthDragon

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NorthDragon

Check the Shortcut to size supp page for more info. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/shortcut-to-size-supplements.html

Jul 28, 2012 3:52pm | report
incomudrox

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incomudrox

What if we aren't trying to burn fat? Is it still a good option? Or should we just not taking straight BCAA's prior and instead a Whey protein?

Jul 28, 2012 2:44pm | report
 
Eric9185

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Eric9185

The conclusion was that taking BCAA's 30 min before is beneficial... but like Adrian77 stated above, a good diet is all you need. Because of my schedule though I personally choose to use supplements.

Aug 9, 2012 6:29am | report
fascismforfun

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fascismforfun

The BCAA's shouldn't interfere with fat burn as they are just readily available for protein synthesis and not energy needs. The protein is the same deal, your body will want to go to carbs first and use protein for your protein synthesis, so if you ingest BCAA's and just a few grams of protein you will be fine. I personally use some simple carbs too to increase amino uptake and after as well to help re-fill glycogen stores.

Aug 9, 2012 4:06pm | report
johnxm45

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johnxm45

change of plans...from tomorrow bcaa will be my pre followed by c4..is that ok!!

Jul 28, 2012 3:10pm | report
 
NorthDragon

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NorthDragon

A big guy name Ben Pakulski (aka BPak, aka PakMan, 4th this year at the Arnold) recommends whey isolate protein shake and BCAA pre AND post workout. And that was from one of his training program before he was sponsored. This is also recommended by Jim Stoppani, PhD, from his Shortcut to size program. But it is up to everyone to chose if and what supp to take.

Jul 28, 2012 3:50pm | report
 
kirajayegardner

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kirajayegardner

So.... I currently take Bcaa's prior workout then 20 minutes after workout have protein with Glutamine. Would this be the best option or do you suggest combining Bcaa's

Jul 28, 2012 8:16pm | report
 
jclarke531

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jclarke531

I'd say stay to what you are doing. But, like was stated above, the diet you eat throughout the day is more important. If you workout in the morning (where your BCAAs are the lowest) then I would definitely keep at what you are doing. BCAAs 20-30min prior to workout and a protein shake (Casein is what I suggest) afterwards, or a good fish/egg breakfast.

Feb 20, 2014 10:53am | report
KVHC

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KVHC

Great article, but how long before my workout should I drink the protein shake? I don't want to feel bloated during my workout..

Jul 29, 2012 4:23am | report
 
cacruz6

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cacruz6

i think this depends on your budget. it think this article has a mix of marketing involved, to make you buy BCAAs or whey. So they are suggesting to not take in protein after working out? and instead pre. hmm..
Post workout is really logical to prevent hunger. somewhat confusing to counter the usual. haha

Jul 29, 2012 6:26am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 56 Comments

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