The post-workout shake is a great ritual of the fit life, but if you're taking protein powder just to make sure you're getting all the protein you need each day, there is no specific time to take it. Many people start the day with a protein shake, or even mix a scoop into their cereal or yogurt. But protein is protein, no matter if you have it at breakfast or dinner—or in between.

However, there is also a case for taking protein before working out, particularly if you're on a low-calorie or low-carb diet.

"Taking protein alone before a workout is extremely beneficial during a low-carb diet," explains nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, Ph.D., in the article "Should I Drink Protein Before or After a Workout?" Taken at this time, he says, the supplement "leads to an increase in fat oxidation (fat burning) during high-intensity exercise like interval training or metabolic resistance training."

If you're living the low-carb life, there are even low-carb protein powders specifically made to match up with your dietary preferences.

Don't like having that shake sloshing in your stomach during training? Roussell recommends taking isolated branched-chain amino acids instead. A number of other experts also recommend essential amino acid (EAA) blends, which contain the three branched-chain amino acids as well as the other six essential aminos, but Chris Lockwood, Ph.D., CSCS, says that EAAs and BCAAs should have similar effects in most people.