Best Time to Drink Protein Shake for Muscle Gain, Weight Loss & Better Performance

Best Times to Drink Protein Shake
Heather Black post Reviewer
The article is verified by Heather Black
Personal Trainer, Precision Nutrition Coach, and Health & Wellness Director of a chain of fitness centers

Protein shakes have gained in popularity along with the rise of fitness culture. What makes protein supplements so popular is the biological function of proteins in our bodies. 

Once ingested, protein is broken down into smaller units called amino acids. Human bodies use these essential amino acids for a range of functions, such as enzyme and hormone production, as well as to build up tissues, including muscle. The latter is in fact the main reason protein has become the Holy Grail of nutrients for all gym goers wanting to preserve or build muscle mass

Table of Contents

Note that protein powders are not to be used as a replacement for a balanced meal; however, they are a great way to supplement your diet. In this article, we will discuss how protein shakes can help you achieve the results you want and when to consume them to maximize the benefits. 

Best time to drink protein shake to build muscle

When looking to build muscle, it is important to be on a calorie surplus. Specifically, you need to supply your body with enough protein to reach a positive protein balance (which means your body ingests more protein than it breaks down). 

You can attain this by eating at least 1.8-2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily (source: PubMed). To achieve your daily requirements more easily, you can supplement your diet with protein shakes at different times of the day. 

After you wake up

A great way to stimulate muscle mass synthesis is to consume protein alongside carbohydrates, as these two macronutrients stimulate the production of insulin, an anabolic hormone. Therefore, a good breakfast idea would be to consume a bowl of cereal with a protein shake of your choosing in place of regular milk. 

This will help you get the energy required to hit the gym and replenish any glycogen or muscle protein catabolized through the night. 

After your workout

If you want to build muscle, an ideal time to drink a protein shake is within 3 hours of your training session, during the so-called ‘anabolic window.’ Moreover, according to a study, the earlier the intake, the

e more protein synthesis is elevated. 

Your post-workout shake should contain a mix of carbohydrates and protein to stimulate insulin secretion for a greater anabolic effect. An easy way to achieve this is to have a mass gainer shake, which is a specific formula designed for muscle building. 

Before bed

Another option for muscle growth is having a protein shake before bed. In this case, opt for casein, which is a slow-release protein and therefore ideal to drink before bed. It provides a slow, steady supply of essential amino acids during the night, which mitigates muscle catabolism.

The consumption of casein shakes before bed has also been shown to have a positive impact on strength in the long run

Best time to drink protein shake for weight loss

If your aim is to lose weight, you need to make sure to consume plenty of protein. Snacks and meals high in protein lead to decreased production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, as well as a general decrease in the desire to eat. Also, protein takes longer to digest, aiding in the sense of fullness. 

With a breakfast low in protein

Having a protein shake as part of your breakfast will replenish the muscle proteins that were catabolized during the night fast. It will also make you feel full for longer, meaning you will make it to lunchtime without suffering unbearable hunger.

Note that drinking a protein shake or having protein supplements is neither necessary nor essential for weight loss. You can have a balanced protein-high breakfast to cover your body’s needs for protein and get all the benefits listed above. 

Between meals

Protein shakes make a great snack as they help you curb your hunger and support a positive protein balance. 

Snacking is quite controversial as snacks are usually associated with small but high-carb meals. However, high-protein snacks effectively reduce hunger and prevent overeating during subsequent food intake, which is great for weight loss.

Best time to drink protein shake to preserve muscle mass in aging bodies

Low protein intake in the aging population is associated with an increased risk of fractures, falls, and injuries. 

As we age, our bodies become less efficient at maintaining a protein balance, leading to sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass. Seniors are recommended to consume up to twice the recommended daily protein intake of 0.8 g per kilogram (or 3.6 g per 10 lb) of body weight to prevent sarcopenia and further muscle loss.

Protein shakes are a great option for older people, as the liquid texture doesn’t require chewing, which may sometimes become difficult with age. 

With low-protein meals

When wanting to preserve muscle mass in older adults, it is recommended to consume whey protein shakes if the meal lacks high-quality proteins or if chewing is difficult for the individual.

Best time to drink protein shake for better training performance and recovery

Shakes supplying protein and carbohydrates have been shown to support both performance and recovery. While protein is used for building muscle tissues, carbohydrates are essential for getting readily available energy and restoring the glycogen within our muscles. 

Before exercise

If you want to improve your performance by minimizing muscle breakdown, consume a carbohydrate-protein shake prior to any HIIT training session that lasts over 60 minutes (source:  Sports Nutrition). 

During exercise

Research has shown that consuming shakes containing high-quality protein during exercise can help minimize muscle loss and, therefore, indirectly support performance. Leucine-enriched protein shakes consumed during physical activity have also been shown to enhance post-exercise recovery. 

After exercise

Once you’ve finished training, be sure to drink a shake containing a combination of carbohydrates and protein to support a positive protein balance within the body and restore glycogen more effectively. To maximize recovery, the best time to drink a carbohydrate-protein shake is during the 3-hour post-training anabolic window. You can also add leucine and creatine to your post-workout protein shake to sustain progressive performance.

On rest days

On your rest days, you can consume a protein shake as part of your breakfast, before bed, or as a snack to support your protein balance and encourage recovery. 

best times to drink protein shake

Final words

Protein is an essential macronutrient for every diet. In particular, protein intake should be monitored during

– muscle gain as our bodies require extra protein to build new muscle tissue;

– weight loss to maintain satiety;

– high-intensity training for better performance and recovery. 

Keep in mind that a protein shake is not a meal. It’s a great source of easily digestible protein but it lacks other nutrients. Therefore, always opt for balanced high-protein meals instead of a shake whenever you can. Use protein shakes to supplement your diet, not substitute meals.


The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.

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