How to Use Protein Shakes to Maximize Muscle Growth

It's a common misconception that drinking protein shakes will automatically lead to muscle growth. This isn't the case -- protein powder is just a food/nutrition supplement, in powdered form that when used in conjunction with a workout and diet plan will aid in the muscle building process. It is not required but can definitely move you along your program as you look for ways to add protein to your diet especially for heavy weight training activities that require a protein rich diet. If your plan calls for additional protein, the type of protein powder you use and how you use it, can make a big difference in your results. Here's how to get the most out of your protein shakes:  


Most people think of protein shakes as post-workout nutrition, but actually, it's important to have some protein in the bloodstream before the workout begins to prevent muscle catabolism. This can be in the form of a pre workout snack or a protein shake. So in the case of a protein shake, 15-20 minutes before the workout, drink one third of your shake. Drink a second third during your workout. Finally, finish of the final third at the end of the workout, right after your final set. There a varying opinions on when and how to take protein but the bottom line is make sure it is part of your diet before and after your workout. 

Include Carbs 

Choose a shake which contains simple carbohydrates, but minimal complex carbs or fat. The simple carbs, although not the healthiest choice of food are useful for muscle growth because they trigger an insulin release. Insulin will help shuttle nutrients in your blood to the muscles, helping that protein get where it is needed more quickly. Aim for at least 20 grams of simple carbs per shake. 

Type of Protein 

If you are simply looking for a popular and fast absorbing protein, whey is the way. Studies have shown that the absorption rate of whey protein is superior to other varieties, such as soy protein or casein (soy and casein are both good proteins and have their benefits as well). In fact, one study found that whey protein ramps up protein synthesis -- a biological process that proceeds muscle growth -- 30% more efficiently than soy protein. However, whey is not anti-catabolic so do not write off other types of proteins as sometimes a slower absorbing protein is ideal. Educate yourself on each of the different types of protein as one may be best for you over the other. It comes down to individual goals and personal needs.  


Aim for around 45-50 grams of protein in your shake. This means you'll be drinking around 15 grams of protein before, during and after the workout. Ignore the advice saying the body can only absorb 20 grams of protein at a time -- research has not shown this to be correct. 

Protein powder can be pricey, so you want to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck and shop for deals and a company you can rely on (no need to fear is here). If you follow the guidelines laid out above, you'll be well on your way to better gains in the gym.


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