When Should I Take Whey Protein?

Welcome to the most comprehensive article on when to take whey protein. See information, my favorite whey products, and more.

Is that a shot glass of whey protein?!
Is that a shot glass of whey protein?!

Table of Contents

  • What is Whey protein?
  • Whey protein before workouts
  • Whey protein during workouts
  • Whey protein after workouts
  • Whey protein at night, before bed
  • Conclusion: all in all, how often should I take Whey protein?

What is Whey Protein?

Here's a breakdown of what you should know about whey protein and protein in general:

  • Whey protein is a protein that is easier and quicker to absorb than protein found in most foods. While this is convenient, it doesn't necessarily mean it is better than foods.
  • Background: Protein is required to repair the muscle tears formed from from strenuous and intense exercise. When you put stress on your muscles, you cause tears that actually break down your muscles. Technically, yes -- this means that by working out, you are causing your muscles to become weaker.
  • How can protein in general help? When you consume protein (whether it be whey, soy, etc.) the tears get repaired. Not only do these tears get repaired to their original state, but, rather, the tears are then more adaptive to exercise, thus leading to strength gains.
  • Lastly, let's not forget that the appropriate amounts of carbohydrates and fats are also required to build muscle and strength.

Taking Whey Protein Before a Workout

While taking protein before a training routine may be good for you, taking it immediately before a workout won't actually have any effect during your workout. That is, if you don't give it enough time to interact with your body. In other words, don't expect to drink a protein shake 2 minutes before working out and feel like Superman. From my experience, I would recommend that you try to drink it at least an hour beforehand.

By having protein in your system before working out, you're allowing the protein to kickstart the repair process. So, when you start to tear down muscles, the protein will already be there to start repairing them. Another way to think of this is to treat it like an early post-workout meal.

Taking Whey Protein During a Workout

This is an interesting topic, because there are several factors that might lead you to stay away from consuming protein during the workout. One of them being that:

  • Whenever you consume anything, your stomach requires extra blood to be pumped to it to digest and metabolize the food. This might be a problem (although, not a big one) when trying to work out. If the blood is being focused on your stomach partially, then it won't be used for other purposes such as assisting in exercising.

This probably concerns weight lifters far more than than it would cardio folk. In cardio, you may need the extra boost of energy to keep going. But, for lifting, when the work is shorter and more intense, you may not be maximizing on the benefits of your training routine if you have blood pumping to other places.

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Taking Whey Protein After a Workout

As mentioned, taking whey protein after your workout is a good thing -- especially for muscle repair. Here are some considerations for your post-workout whey consumption:

  • After a workout, your body is starved for energy, or at least is looking for where it can get some to refuel. Typically, when your body is searching for sources of energy either from exercise or prolonged stages of under-consumption, it absorbs nutrients much easier.
  • Don't go overboard and load up twice your body weight of protein. Taking about 40 to 60 grams will be sufficient.
  • The time after working out is crucial. In order to capitalize on the protein consumption post-workout, you have roughly 40 minutes to chow down.
  • After your post-workout protein, it's best to eat at least every 2 hours, for 6 hours afterwards. Just because you had your post-workout meal does not mean that your body is done searching for energy to recover.

Taking Whey Protein Before Bed

Have you ever been told not to eat right before bed? Generally speaking, and for most things, it usually isn't a good idea. Protein, however, is okay.

  • Consuming carbohydrates before bed isn't recommended, but protein is fine. Carbohydrates are strictly for energy purposes, but since you should have consumed enough of them during the day you should not need to sleep on them. You'll just gain bad weight.
  • Instead of anything carb-y, have the protein shake an hour before bed. Protein shakes in this instance are particularly useful because they are low in carbohydrates.
  • When you sleep, your muscles are still recovering and so it is a good idea to maintain protein levels throughout the time your body goes into a slight starvation mode.
  • Usually, bodybuilders and experienced muscle gainers go for casein protein for pre-bedtime use because it digests slower and longer than whey protein. Since you'll likely (or ideally) be sleeping 7-8 hours, this is good.

Wait, What About Protein When I Wake Up?

Remember what I said before about the "window of opportunity?"

  • The "window of opportunity" exists after exercise or when you haven't consumed anything for a long period of time. Since I'm assuming you don't sleep-walk to the fridge and grab bites to eat throughout the night, your body is likely eager to eat something when you wake up. This is usually why people say "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" because it's the time when your body is most ready to digest and absorb.
  • Aim for natural foods if you're like me and you don't want to chug a protein shake in the morning . . . although I have before. Instead, go for natural foods with high-protein content in them, such as: milk, nuts, lean meats, eggs, yogurt, and dairy in general (okay, don't have ice cream though).
  • Deciding when to have a protein shake and when not to is usually dependent on your budget. I usually choose to have 3 scoops total a day. One and a half scoops after workouts and one and a half before bed. Just monitor how you feel with these amounts based on your training routines and schedule.
  • Other times throughout the day, try and have natural foods with protein in them. An easy way to go about this is to just start Googling a protein foods for some good options.

A balanced diet is always important . . . maybe not this much fruit, though.
A balanced diet is always important . . . maybe not this much fruit, though.

Conclusion on Protein

As you can see, there are many times throughout the day that are great for protein consumption. So what does this mean overall?

  • It means that the most effective and efficient way for you to gain muscle and stave off hunger is to eat a fairly consistent amount of protein throughout the day.
  • What about when people say you're supposed to eat twice your body weight in protein? Well, that may be true for extreme bodybuilders. But, normally, one gram per pound of your body weight will be more than sufficient.
  • The best way to consume your protein is to do it using natural and protein shakes and to do it throughout the day in small to moderately sized meals.
  • Go for yogurt, too. I'll give a quick, personal testimony here: Greek yogurt is by far the greatest source of natural protein I know of. Have you ever checked out the nutrition label on these things? It has crazy amounts of protein, as well as pretty minimal amounts of carbohydrates. Just make sure to get the flavored kind!

I hope you`ve learned something to help improve your lifestyle and fitness. My goal through this article is`nt to try and promote whey protein, but to show how and why it can be beneficial.

Thanks for reading and please comment if you have questions!

© 2013 Benjamin

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Comments 39 comments

Duterte 5 months ago

what if i workout around 9pm for 1hr then take whey after.. Should i take another scoop before i go to sleep?

Cindy 6 months ago

I have a 13 year old son who wants to start weight training. We are looking into getting him into a teen fitness program. He is very active and plays hockey and is on the ice at least 3 times a week. We had someone tell us to add whey protein shakes to his daily diet. Do you think this is something he needs and will he benefit from it? He is very skinny and eats non stop but doesn't put on any weight. If this is something you recommend when should he take it, morning, afternoon or before bed? Thanks for your help.

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 19 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great information about whey protein. I never had it before and never heard of it. Sounds like a good idea to me to help muscle tears. Voted up!

av 21 months ago

Very helpful

Lucas 21 months ago

Just wanted to say thanks.

bodyathletics profile image

bodyathletics 22 months ago from Kenosha Author

It really depends on your body type, goals, etc. I know that`s not exactly an answer you wanted to hear. Focus on your personal needs. Are you looking to gain muscle or lose weight while maintaining muscle? What`s your budget? I would spend time reading what goes into these whey protein powders besides just the protein to make a better decision.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

I prefer freshfood protein rather than powder type

Thomas 22 months ago

Looking to gain weight, how much will whey protein actually help? I have taken it in the past and it has not helped me with my gains and also gave me stomach problems.

Nabilharis 22 months ago

I have started working out since June and I am not sure whether to buy elite gourmet protein or whey protein. Is there a difference between the two as I see that whey is much more expensive then elite gourmet protein. Is it also advisable for me to take either mass gainer or protein?

ratnaveera profile image

ratnaveera 22 months ago from Cumbum

Thank you for sharing the useful information about this Whey protein. I agree that protein is very important for the muscle growth, repair and they can be recommended for the bod builders.

Thien 23 months ago

I work out from 8pm, so how should i eat and drink protein ? Cause it makes me so full before bed ? And may that way makes me gain weight? Cause im already fat

rk 24 months ago

Useful article thank you

WeeCatCreations1 profile image

WeeCatCreations1 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Thank you for the clear explanation of why you want to consume whey protein at specific times during the day. I've had people at the gym push whey protein but without good reasons.

3D 2 years ago

Thanks great advice. I have a big can of whey protein that I now have some idea how to use.

Newbie body builder 2 years ago

Thank you. Great guide and article.

thunkfulthinker profile image

thunkfulthinker 2 years ago from Ohio

I think that 40-60 grams of protein post workout is kind of excessive. A nutritionist came to our college and recommended that the amount we take is 20 grams(plus milk) before and after. I had previously only taken 40 grams after, but now I split it 20/20 and have had a lot of benefits from it.

I think it varies how much each person needs and that should be thought about when deciding how much to take.

A lot of people on sports team get their urine tested and it tells them how much protein is in their system and if it's high, it means that they are literally peeing away their protein.

So I would be cautious about how much you take because your body can only handle so much. Anything extra will probably get peed out.

pradiiphira profile image

pradiiphira 2 years ago from Ahmedabad-India

My instructor always insists me to take whey protein but till date i never have it. But now I have enough information about when to take and it's useful more, so now I think I will start it.

Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 2 years ago from Japan

I have been doing weight training for some time and have experimented with this. For me, right before bed seems to have the best effect, because that when you are fasting. You can lose muscle while sleeping/fasting if you don't eat enough, or if you go to bed starving.

Michael 2 years ago

Great article! Tons of information and steps on how to use whey protein. Thank you very much.

olasile profile image

olasile 2 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

This is lovely! but how can this product be used in Africa(knowing that our environmental and socio-cultural activities are different from yours there).

Janice Horner 2 years ago

You have explained this beautifully, and in terms easy to the reader's eye!

The article is very explanatory with lots of images.

My youngest son, has just started going to the gym. He has lost around 2 stone simply by changing the way he was eating and not by dieting. It is totally amazing. When he left home the pounds just piled on, and then he suffered a little health scare just before Christmas, which was the 'wake up and smell the coffee' nudge he needed. I will let him know about this drink.

Brilliant hub!

crystolite profile image

crystolite 2 years ago from Houston TX

That's a good one. Never heard so much about whey protein. Thanks for the information.

Glutathione PRO profile image

Glutathione PRO 2 years ago

It really depends on your protein intake for the day and activity level. I try to have my protein shake first thing in the morning (normally add a couple of raw eggs) just to get that initial boost of protein to set my body up for the day. After a workout I normally have a shake (berries, banana, coconut water etc.) and add in a scoop of protein.

carrie Lee Night profile image

carrie Lee Night 2 years ago from Northeast United States

interesting hub. Thank you for taking the time to write something about good health. Have a good day voted up an interesting

lilmissmontana profile image

lilmissmontana 2 years ago from Montana

This is great information and I'm happy to know that I have been right on track with my whey. I am really trying to gain muscle and protein shakes are the easiest way for me to get my protein because I'm not a big meat eater and one can only consume so many egg whites each day before they get boring.

Thank you for sharing. This is great information for anyone, regardless of fitness level or goals. Voted up!

Glutathione PRO profile image

Glutathione PRO 2 years ago

I like to start my day with my whey protein. Gives me the protein I need to rev up my metabolism and energy that lasts throughout the day. Also post-workout.

Karl 2 years ago

Hi i started with Lean whey protein do i take before workouts or after workouts

MuscleHead20 profile image

MuscleHead20 2 years ago from St. Louis

I've tried many different brands of whey protein, even the expensive brands form $60-$80, and by far the Whey Protein Elite Series has worked for me and everyone that I know who has used it. You can find it at any Wal - Mart for $18. This whey protein blend is amazing! I would highly recommend giving it a try

Roselynn 2 years ago

I am in an intense bootcamp routine..its late from 730 to 830 4 days a week..Is it ok to drink my whey protein shake that late or will it make me gain weight...

Amro Sharfi 2 years ago

I am 16 years old and I have whey protien i want to use it can I use it?

it is the first time for me to enter a gym.I am 80 fat

bodyathletics profile image

bodyathletics 2 years ago from Kenosha Author

On rest days especially, I would try and space protein out through the day. Remember always that protein shakes are supposed to be supplements. Go for natural foods first and space throughout the day. If you can't get all your protein in during a certain time period then go for the shake.

Orane 2 years ago

I don't workout everyday but i want to have my protein shake everyday. When I workout i eat my protein shake as a post workout meal with some carbs. But when should I have my protein shake when it's a rest day?

Thank you for your answer!

bodyathletics profile image

bodyathletics 2 years ago from Kenosha Author

If you're working out pretty early in the morning your metabolism will likely be high at the beginning and end of the workout. Maybe you want to eat a small snack before working out, and then the protein after.

ripper 2 years ago

hey i hit the gym at 6 in the morning. is it advisable to take protein shake as soon as i wake up and then have my post workout protein shake (at around 7.30-8) ?

Nicola 2 years ago

I am trying to gain weight and a little muscle. Is walking and light weights good to begin with?

kyle 2 years ago

Very new to protein supplements so I appreciate the information. This was a one hit wonder for my question after 10 other posts. Thanks.

Whey protein 3 years ago

This is a good post. I'm definitely going to look into it. Really very useful tips are provided here. thank you so much.Keep up the good works

stanmurphy profile image

stanmurphy 3 years ago from Kansas

I really benefit from the whey protein when it comes to help with my tendons. They tend to get real sore if I don't use it. Nice article. I especially like that you include the "window of opportunity" aspect. Many people don't realize the importance of that! Good Job!

Souther29 profile image

Southern29 3 years ago from London, UK

Yeah I've recently started encorporating Whey Protein after my workouts to get my muscles recovering immediately after a tough session. Massively helping with any aches and pains. I tend to have mine within 20 minutes of finishing. The shake bottle with the metal ball is great too as really does make the shake even without lumps and you can also use it to mix dressings or to hold cold soups etc.

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