The Great Debate: Protein Shake Before or After a Workout?

8 min read

Key Takeaways:
  • “Is there a time when I should NOT drink a protein shake?”
  • You need to protein to repair your muscles after a workout
  • Use a pre-breakfast protein shake to get protein (duh) and eat a cleaner breakfast as a side effect.
  • Advice from a top-secret expert you've never hear about
  • What my coaches told me in the when I played in the NFL to get massive.

Someone recently asked me…

“Is there a time when I should NOT drink a protein shake?”

The simple answer is no.

That sounds like a pretty boring answer, right? I agree. But there are ways to maximize your daily protein intake with strategic protein shakes.

Whether you're a seasoned fitness enthusiast or just starting out, you’ve probably wondered whether drinking protein shakes after a workout is the game-changer you've been missing or simply just a fad we’ve grown to accept without questioning.

There’s really only one way to find out, which is to look at the science and ask the experts.

So, let’s dive in!

Drink a Protein Shake Within 30 Minutes of A Workout

This is the standard gym bro response when you ask “when should I drink a protein shake?” And it does make sense.

Picture this: you've just finished an intense workout, and your muscles are screaming for some replenishment (like tiny little kittens being bullied by mean kids). But instead of reaching for a Red Bull or a boring protein bar, imagine indulging in a delicious Essentials Shake that not only satisfies your cravings but also supercharges your recovery.

(Talk about protein shakes?! I have to sell them on the Essentials Shake later? Fine.)

For this reason, drinking a protein shake post-workout does make a ton of sense. That’s because the process of working out actually contributes to muscle protein breakdown.

Yes, you read that right. When you pump iron and do intense exercise you’re actually breaking down muscle, not building it. (Yeah, I know you know this. I'm writing this for those in the back who might be... a little... slow.) All the growth happens in the “anabolic window” - a time when your muscles are most receptive to nutrients and protein synthesis is at its peak.

 The way you fuel (and rest) after your workout has just as much to do with your results as the workout itself.

So it does make sense that the post-workout window is an important time to refuel and a critical time when your body needs protein to start muscle protein synthesis and rebuild the muscle tissue.

But there’s a lot of research showing that the protein timing doesn’t matter as long as you get enough of it.

There’s plenty of times when a protein shake within 30 minutes might not be feasible. Maybe you’re in a rush to get home or back to the office or maybe you worked out so hard that you can’t stomach the idea of guzzling down a shake right away.

So, what do you do in this situation?

Use the protein shake as it is intended.

If you're serious about achieving your fitness goals, then protein is your best friend.

Protein is the building block of muscle and plays a vital role in repairing and rebuilding the tissues damaged during intense workouts. By providing your muscles with the necessary amino acids, protein fuels their growth and enables them to recover faster.

When you add protein shakes into your fitness plan, you're ensuring your muscles have the fuel they need to push through plateaus and reach new heights (size).

But it's not just about muscle growth and recovery. Protein also increases your metabolic rate, which means you will burn more calories even at rest. Protein helps you feel fuller for longer, curbing those unnecessary cravings and aiding in weight management.

So you’d better use protein shakes as a tool.

Here’s another thing to consider: If you struggle to reach your daily protein needs (i.e. above 100 grams a day) then you definitely need a protein shake. Whether you’re trying to bulk up or cut down, you’ll need a protein shake to ensure that you’re building or maintaining lean muscle and losing fat.

Not getting enough protein on a daily basis is a surefire way to be disappointed with your results. And nobody wants all their hard work to go to waste.

So, here’s some advice from an expert — Dan John.

Wait, Who is Dan John?

Dan John is an All-American discus thrower who competed at the highest levels of Olympic lifting and Highland Games. He also holds the American record in the Weight Pentathlon.

So you might say he knows a thing or two about getting big and strong.

Anyway, where were we?

Oh yeah. Here are all the different protein shake timings you can use to boost your protein intake whether you’re bulking or cutting.

Protein Shake Before A Workout

“This is interesting, Dan. If you take about 10 grams of protein—not much, really—before you train, there is research, solid stuff, that says it goes right into the muscles— just as we had always hoped it would.”

“[…] So, before you train, drink a one-scoop protein drink.”

— Dan John, Mass Made Simple

Even though there’s a lot of research showing that protein timing doesn’t matter, I’m gonna side with Dan on this one. Between the two of us, he’s the one coaching athletes on a regular basis.

Plus this is also the advice I got from my coaches back in my NFL days. Our coaches would never let us exercise fasted and made sure that we ate (or drank) something with a lot of calories and protein.

And look how big I got.

Protein Shake Before Bed

“It is very simple: Drink a protein shake before going to bed. Usually the recommended serving size is two scoops, so use this as your guide: This is a two-scoop shake.”

— Dan John, Mass Made Simple

Drinking a protein shake that’s low in carbs won't affect your blood sugar levels as you sleep. Plus you get to give your stomach something to digest while you rest.

So, try drinking a protein shake before bed.

You might end up feeling better rested in the mornings.

Pre Breakfast Protein Shake

“Add a two-scoop protein shake at rising, first thing in the morning. Some have reported this has an effect on breakfast by changing how they feel about eating.”

— Dan John, Mass Made Simple

This is the way to go if you’re trying to bulk. The extra protein is gonna help your muscles recover and help eat cleaner during breakfast as Dan mentioned.

But if you are trying to lose weight…

Then I recommend replacing your breakfast with a protein shake.

Or even better would be replacing your breakfast with a low carb, high protein, high fiber nutritionally complete shake loaded with 25 whole food ingredients. Something with 1.5 times the protein of Huel and KaChava and half the carbs.

But who’d even make something like that?

Choosing the Right Protein Powder for Maximum Results

Not all protein powders are the same when it comes to fueling your muscles and getting the most out of your workouts. There are so many options out there that it can be impossible to choose the right one. But don't worry, I'm here to help you pick the best protein powder for the best results.

First, look for a protein powder made specifically for before or after your workouts, instead of just plain pea, soy, or whey protein. These powders are easier to digest and absorb, and they give your muscles important nutrients quickly.

At LyfeFuel, we use a special mix of plant proteins that are just as good as whey protein but don't have the bad effects on your health and the planet. Our blend of pea, rice, and quinoa protein has the amino acids your muscles need to grow and heal.

Think about the flavor too.

You want a protein powder that not only gives your body what it needs but also tastes good. But be careful, many protein powders have fake flavors and sweeteners that can be bad for you. Check the ingredients list and avoid powders with too much added sugar or fake stuff.

Choose a powder that has low carbs and fats and doesn't have any unnecessary fillers. Look for a powder that is clean, pure, and has high-quality protein without any extra stuff.

Also, think about what you like to eat. Plant-based protein shakes are not just for people who don't eat meat or dairy. They have the same benefits for your muscles without using animal products and are easier to digest.

By picking the right protein powder, you can get the most out of your workouts and reach new levels of fitness. Don't settle for okay results, do some research and find the perfect protein powder that fits your needs and tastes. Your muscles and taste buds will thank you.

Enhancing Your Protein Shake with Nutrient-Rich Ingredients

Take your protein shake game to the next level by incorporating nutrient-rich ingredients that will fuel your muscles and boost your overall fitness journey.

One ingredient to consider adding is a handful of fresh berries, such as blueberries or strawberries, or you can really step it up with a mix of Amazonian super berries, which is what we use in our Performance Shake.

Not only do they add a burst of flavor to your shake, but they are also packed with antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and aid in muscle recovery.

For an extra boost of vitamins and minerals, consider throwing in a handful of leafy greens, like spinach or kale. These nutrient powerhouses will not only add a vibrant green color but also contribute to improved digestion and overall gut health.

Including organic leafy greens in both our Essentials and Performance Shakes is driven by their remarkable nutrient content, among other health benefits.

By enhancing your protein shake with nutrient-rich ingredients, you'll not only maximize the effectiveness of your workouts but also nourish your body from the inside out. And to make it even easier to get these added benefits, you could simply upgrade your basic protein shake to LyfeFuel.


In conclusion, protein shakes, whether consumed before or after a workout, hold incredible potential to maximize your workout gains.

These liquid powerhouses are jam-packed with the essential nutrients your muscles need to grow and recover.

By incorporating a protein shake into your fitness routine, you can elevate your performance to new heights and witness impressive results.

“Simply, after finishing your workout, have a one-scoop protein drink.”

— Dan John, Mass Made Simple

Well, we’ve come full circle.

 During most of my college football career at Berkeley, I would drink two Gatorade protein shakes (yes, Gatorade used to make protein powder and no, it wasn’t good) and two power bars as my post-workout meal.

So, no matter when you drink the protein shake…

Remember it’s more important to get ENOUGH protein.

By fueling your body with the perfect balance of protein and other vital nutrients, you provide your muscles with the exact assistance they need to repair and rebuild.

Protein shakes before a workout lay the foundation for success. By equipping your body with the necessary amino acids, you can enhance muscle protein synthesis, resulting in increased muscle growth and improved recovery.

Moreover, these shakes have the ability to supply you with the energy required to power through each session, ensuring optimal performance and preventing muscle breakdown.

Similarly, protein shakes after a workout become the key to unlocking your body's full potential.

After an intense training session, your muscles crave replenishment and repair.

A protein shake quickly delivers the necessary amino acids to jumpstart the recovery process, reducing muscle soreness and allowing you to bounce back stronger than ever.

By promptly consuming a protein shake post-workout, you'll optimize the window of opportunity for muscle growth while restoring glycogen levels and enhancing overall recovery.

And, if you’re falling short of hitting your daily protein target or finding it difficult to eat enough solid food throughout the day (both problems I faced as an athlete), then adding protein shakes to your diet is a great option…as long as you choose a high-quality source packed with extra nutrients.

Finally, if you’re looking for a protein shake that gives more bang for your buck — with whole vitamins and minerals to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs — then check out our Performance Shake.


  • Regulatory Requirements for Meal Replacement Products: An International Review (2018) Available here

Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.