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Should I Take Protein Powder Before or After a Workout?

author image Gord Kerr
Gord Kerr's professional background is primarily in business and management consulting. In 1991, Kerr started writing freelance for a small local newspaper, "The Summerland Review," and a leading sailing publication, "Cruising World Magazine." Kerr has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Wilfred Laurier University.
Should I Take Protein Powder Before or After a Workout?
Two scoopers filled with protein powder Photo Credit marekuliasz/iStock/Getty Images

Athletes and bodybuilders use protein powder nutritional supplements to gain weight, increase muscle mass and enhance performance. Along with the proper use of protein supplements, good nutrition is essential for those who follow an intense exercise regimen that includes vigorous workouts. Follow a healthy diet, and do not use protein supplements in place of regular meals.


Protein powders are formulated to support muscle mass in athletes and bodybuilders by helping to increase metabolism, energy, athletic performance and muscle recovery. Nutrients and protein form the basis for powdered protein supplements. The protein is mainly derived from whey, a milk-based protein or soy. Both whey and soy are complete proteins, supplying your body with all the essential amino acids.


Building muscle requires more protein than maintaining muscle mass. Practical Fitness Tips says that according to recommendations from sources such as “Journal of Applied Physiology” and “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,” male athletes should consume 1.4 g of protein per kg of body weight to build body mass, although there is some disagreement among experts. Protein in excess of that amount may not have any benefit.

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Consuming a protein shake or other supplemental form of protein an hour or two before training can give your body enough fuel for energy to maintain your workout session. However, taking a protein supplement immediately after your workout may have the maximum benefit. Resistance exercise breaks down muscle, and the body needs to repair the cellular damage caused to the whole system, including hormonal, immune, muscle and tissue. In a study at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, researchers compared the effects of protein on muscle in men in their 20s and men in their 70s. The study concluded that protein consumed after exercise helped boost the body’s muscle-making potential in both age groups compared to taking protein after a period of rest. This process led to greater increase in muscle protein, reported the “American Journal of Clinic Nutrition,” which suggested muscle protein increased at nearly the same rate in all men and that the digestion of protein is not impaired by age. In addition, muscle protein increased more with exercise than with subjects who were inactive.


Protein sources in powdered protein supplements have proved effective for building muscle and strength. The “Nutrition Journal” reported a 2004 study that found subjects who consumed soy or whey protein had significantly increased lean body mass as compared to the control group.


Powdered protein supplements may have some side effects, including allergic reactions in lactose intolerant people who consume protein powders that contain whey, a dairy product. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate protein powders for safety because they are considered dietary supplements, so check with your doctor if you have any medical conditions. Protein supplements may increase the risk of prostate cancer among men who take beta-carotene supplements and drink alcohol. In addition, smokers who take beta-carotene and protein supplements may increase their risk of lung cancer.

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