When people ask 'when is the best time to take protein?' it's hard to give a short and simple answer since in reality there's optimal times to take many different types of protein and this is also dependant upon your training goals and whether you want to increase muscle mass, lower body fat or just recover from sport and training. Here we try to explain, in simple terms, when the best time to take certain protein powders is and how exactly it can help you, your body and your training goals.
The Best Morning Protein
Now firstly it must be noted that the following guidelines are quite general since various other factors must be taken into consideration when devising a nutrition routine and selecting the right protein. For instance certain food intolerances must be accounted for incase the athlete is lactose intolerant or perhaps they are performing semi-fasted cardio in the mornings therefore wouldn't want any form of protein.
However generally speaking, most experts will recommend a quality whey protein powder first thing in the morning mainly because of its impressive Biological Value and great amino acid profile which ultimately 'sets' you up for the day. The Biological Value (or BV for short) of a protein is basically a measurement of its quality and is the amount of nitrogen (body protein in grams) replaceable by 100 grams of protein in the adult diet or put more simply the amount of protein the body is able to retain and use from the protein ingested. Now most sports scientists will argue the higher the Biological Value the better the protein, however this is debated to this day amongst the scientific community, but adopting this popular point of view it would make sense to start your day with whey protein with a high BV. The BV of whey is roughly around 104, whilst the next best in terms of BV is whole eggs with 100, then milk with 91, casein 77, beef 80, soy 74 and then beans are 49. This is not to say that beef, beans and soy are not without their benefits, it just means that for first thing in the morning whey protein may be best based on the Biological Value theory.
The Best Bed Time Protein
Another important time to consider having protein is before bed since you are about to fast for 7-9 hours whilst you sleep and what you eat before this will decide whether your nighttime becomes anabolic and helps your muscles recover or catabolic and detrimentally affects your muscles and recovery. This is why many experts recommend a slow releasing protein such as casein before bed time since studies show its slow absorption slowly drip feeds your body with amino acids throughout the night therefore ensuring your muscles repair and regrow far better whilst you sleep.
The Best Post-Workout Protein
Perhaps the most important time for athletes to take protein is immediately following training. This is because you've just put your muscles under a lot of stress and created a stimulus for them to become faster, fitter or stronger, providing they have enough protein for them to recover. If they don't have enough protein they simply won't recover and your training may do more harm than good to your muscles.
Specifically regarding 'muscular hypotrophy' (the process by which muscles become bigger) scientists have shown that protein synthesis, the process by which the muscles use protein to regrow, is dramatically increased following strength training which is why your body can absorb more protein during this period compared to any other time of the day since your muscles have a 'sponge-like' quality because they are depleted from training. For this reason it makes sense to consume a fast absorbing protein that will get to the muscles fast like whey protein or soy protein because they will reach the muscles far quicker and begin the recovery process.