Post-Workout Protein Shakes
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when, but some years ago an abundance of scientific research came out that showed post-workout supplementation with a protein beverage, could increase muscle protein synthesis and reduce protein breakdown.
In simple terms; enhance the effectiveness of your workout and promote recovery and adaptation. Further research has been done since those days, and just to make this clear, the same story is still true. Your post-workout beverage is massively important and highly recommended if you want to maximise your results.
However, consuming the same beverage within a 30-minute window prior to your workout, and potentially during may be superior. There’s a little science involved so bear with it…
And Pre-workout Protein Shakes?
During a typical exercise session a net loss of muscle protein actually occurs, because protein synthesis is either decreased or unchanged, whereas protein breakdown is generally considered to be elevated.
Increased levels of amino acids within the blood from ingestion of amino acids before or during exercise, as opposed to after exercise, may counter the net loss of muscle protein.
Simply, less tissue breakdown may occur and hence create a more anabolic environment. Therefore a combination of amino acids via a protein or amino acid supplement, such as Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s,) can be consuded in order to increase amino acid availability, and carbohydrates to stimulate insulin release pre-workout. Over a period of time this should provide greater gains in lean muscle mass, strength and recovery.
What the Research Says
An early study by Tipton et al. (2001) compared the consumption of an amino acid and carbohydrate beverage before a resistance exercise session, versus if the same beverage were to be consumed post-exercise. The idea of the study was to explore whether the consumption of a combination of amino acids and carbohydrate before exercise would have a greater effect in stimulating muscle protein synthesis, than if the same mixture were to be consumed in the post exercise period.
This was a well-designed study involving both male and female volunteers who were randomly assigned to different groups, whereby subjects consumed either a 500ml solution of amino acids and carbohydrate, and a placebo solution post exercise (PRE), or the placebo pre-exercise and amino acids and carbohydrate solution post-exercise (POST).
The resistance exercise consisted of 18 sets at 80% 1RM of various leg resistance exercises. A number of blood samples were taken and muscle biopsies performed at various times throughout the study.
The results of this study suggest that the consumption of an essential amino acid and carbohydrate drink immediately before exercise has a greater response on net muscle protein synthesis compared to the consumption of the same beverage post exercise, primarily because of an increased delivery of amino acids to the muscles, and thereby decreasing catabolism and enhancing post-exercise anabolism.
This study clearly demonstrates that there’s an enhanced effect on muscle protein synthesis when consumption of liquid protein and carbohydrate takes place prior to exercise compared to post-exercise.
Furthermore, a 2007 study by Baty et al. reported that supplementing with a carbohydrate-protein supplement before, during, and immediately after resistance exercise reduced the appearance of myoglobin and creatine phosphokinase (CPK) in the blood that occurred during and following exercise, which would suggest that carbohydrate-protein supplementation can limit muscle damage that occurs both during as well as after exercise!
Although it’s unclear in this study as to whether it was the pre- during- or post-exercise supplementation that had caused this response, the combined ‘peri-workout’ supplement protocol had an acute effect that could ultimately lead to greater long-term adaptations.
In summary, consider switching your post-workout protein shake to having one within 30 minutes prior, or both before and immediately post.
Making this minor change to your supplement regime maximise the effectiveness of your training and optimise your recovery and your results!