We all know the importance of a well formulated protein shake when it comes to creating a toned and shapely physique.
We also know the two most important times of day to consume a whey shake are first thing in the morning and directly after training. Well, maybe not…
Protein timing matters for results
The best time to gulp down your favourite protein drink may depend on your goals, according to new research.
A systematic review conducted recently by researchers from Purdue University delivered a number of interesting insights into the effectiveness of protein supplement timing.
The research team, led by Joshua Hudson, reviewed over 2,000 relevant studies published before 2017 that prescribed a protein supplement and measured changes in body composition for a period of six weeks or more.
They eventually selected 34 randomised controlled trials with 59 intervention groups that met the review criteria and qualitatively assessed them.
More specifically, the researchers looked at the effects of protein supplements consumed with meals, versus between meals, on resistance training–induced body composition changes in adults. What they found may have profound implications for those looking to alter their body composition.
Differences in protein timing
There are various scientific rationales that support differing approaches to protein supplement timing.
When supplementing for muscle gain or weight management, it is generally advised that protein supplement consumption occurs between meals, particularly after weight training to create a positive net protein balance.
However, what the researchers found was that supplement timing differentially influenced body composition responses.
Between meals means more weight
For instance, consuming a protein supplement between meals, which may decrease compensatory eating behaviours, seems to increase energy intake and, therefore, body weight.
Conversely, consuming a protein supplement twice daily with meals led to complete energetic compensation in adults who performed weight training, which consistently decreased fat mass in participants in the studies under review.
They also showed a consistent increase in lean mass. Consuming protein supplements between meals had inconsistent effects on fat mass.
The researchers suggested that “consuming protein supplements with meals may lead to partial meal replacement that would displace the energy that would be consumed otherwise.”
They, therefore, concluded that: “Concurrently with resistance training, consuming protein supplements with meals, rather than between meals, may more effectively promote weight control and reduce fat mass without influencing improvements in lean mass.”
Getting lean versus adding muscle
Ultimately, regardless of when you drink your protein supplement in relation to meals, you’ll add muscle in response to intense weight training.
The take-out from this study is that a subtle difference in body composition can be achieved by shifting the timing of your shakes.
The research findings suggest that for those looking to improve their conditioning by adding lean muscle and reducing body fat, consuming your protein supplements with meals is the most effective approach.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.