We’ve all heard protein shakes can be good supplements during our workouts, but when is the best time to drink them?
One small study by the University of Lincoln in the U.K. found protein shakes may not help people’s muscles recover after a workout, Healthline reported. The study noted respondents still felt muscle soreness, whether they drank a protein shake or not.
But because the study involved a small sample size, authors argued more research has to be done to connect the two.
Registered dietitian Anar Allidina disagrees with the study’s conclusion and says protein shakes can be beneficial. She says the best time to drink a protein shake is after a workout.
“This is when your muscles need to be replenished,” she said. “Don’t bother having a protein shake before a workout. Some people prefer working out in a fasted state — if you need an energy boost, have a snack that is a combination of a complex carb and protein, such as whole-grain toast and nut butter.”
And when it comes to drinking protein shakes at all, not everyone who works out needs one.
“Protein shakes and powders are mainly for people who train competitively, athletes or have a hard time getting in protein because of diet restrictions,” she explained.
“Protein shakes should never replace real foods… are supplements and are meant to supplement your diet.”
She adds that nutrient-dense meals consisting of a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats are full of vital minerals and vitamins that will strengthen the body.
“Keep your protein lean and simple,” she continued. “Aim for 20 grams of protein after a strenuous workout, such as two hard-boiled eggs and whole-grain toast or 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt and berries.”
If we consume too much protein, she continues, our bodies can’t use all of it.
“The extra protein gets stored as fat, which can work against your health goals.”
Buying protein powder
Allidina says when you invest in a protein powder, make sure you know exactly what you are getting.
“Protein powders and shakes are different. There are whey protein, casein, and plant-based protein shakes and powders.”
Whey protein is found in the watery portion of milk and is a mixture of protein isolates.
“It’s considered a complete protein in other words, it contains all nine essential amino acids which the body can’t produce,” she said. “Whey protein generally contains low levels of fat and carbohydrates; it is a quick source of protein.”
She does not recommend whey protein for those who are not able to tolerate dairy.
Unlike whey, casein is a slow-releasing protein, which can take up to six hours to completely digest and be used by the body, she added.
“Casein will help drip-feed your muscles over several hours, ensuring your body is constantly topped up with protein. This is best to take at night as your body is resting and in repairing mode.”
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Again, if you are lactose intolerant, this may not be a good option for you.
And lastly, there are plant-based proteins.
“Rice, hemp and pea protein is usually well tolerated by people,” she said.
“Soy is a common food allergen like whey, so be careful,” she said.
“It has been thought that plant protein powders are not as good as whey protein since they are not a complete protein but this is not entirely true – you need to make sure your diet has quality protein to reap the benefits.”
Choose one that is minimally processed, contains plain protein powder with a short ingredient list and one without added artificial sweeteners.
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