By Nick Nilsson
Author of Time-Volume Training
It doesn't matter what brand or type of protein powder you take...if you're taking it at the wrong time, you aren't getting as much out of it as you could be.
Here is a list of the when, why and how of effective protein supplementation, ranked in order of importance.
1. Immediately After A Workout
If you only take protein powder once per day, this is the absolute best time to take it. Immediately after you finish your workout, your body needs raw materials to rebuild and recover with. If you don't supply the raw materials through eating, your body will break down muscle from elsewhere in your body in order to rebuild the damaged areas. This is very counterproductive as you can well imagine.
By taking in some protein (20 to 30 grams or so) within minutes after exercise, you provide your body with the raw materials it needs to recover without breaking down its own muscle tissue.
2. An Hour After A Workout
About an hour following a workout, your body has settled down from the excitement and is ready to really start rebuilding. The protein that you took in immediately following the workout has been metabolized and your body is looking for more. Another protein shake at this time is a good way to help speed recovery. Try to take in another 20 to 30 grams about an hour after working out.
3. First Thing In The Morning
Immediately upon waking, or as soon after that as you can manage, take a scoop of protein powder. Your body has just been through an (approximately) 8 hour fast and is hungry for nutrients.
Protein powder is more quickly assimilated than solid food and gets into your muscles faster. This protein shot gives your metabolism a boost, which can help with fat loss. Be sure to follow it with a good breakfast, of course.
4. Last Thing At Night
Prepare your body for the long overnight fast by giving it a little something to work with. A good combination for this purpose is to mix a scoop of whey protein in with a small glass of milk.
Whey is what's known as a "fast" protein, meaning that it's digested quickly, while milk protein (casein) is what's known as a "slow" protein, meaning it's digested relatively slowly. At night, you want your protein to be metabolized slowly so that your body gets a more even supply over the course of the night. By mixing "fast" and "slow" proteins, you get the benefits of the higher-quality whey with the slower digestion time of the milk.
5. In-between Meals
A quick protein shake can be a great snack in between meals. It helps keep your body supplied with protein all day long. This is especially useful if you tend to have long periods of time in-between meals.
6. With Meals
Taking a protein supplement with meals is a handy way to increase the protein content of a meal. This is perfect for when you eat a meal that is somewhat low in protein.
7. In The Middle Of The Night
This is a trick that bodybuilders sometimes use in order to keep their muscles supplied with protein throughout the night. Keep a pre-mixed protein shake right beside your bed. Although some trainers have been known to set alarms to wake up to drink it, I prefer to have it there waiting just in case I wake up, but I don't try to wake up on purpose. If I don't wake up, it's right there ready for me to drink first thing in the morning. This strategy is more targeted for muscle growth rather than fat loss.
Taking protein powder is not going to make up for poor diet or a bad program but it can definitely help to support you in your training efforts. Take it at the right time and you'll get the most bang for your buck.
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