There is no question about it, without adequate protein your body cannot repair damaged muscles enough for growth. However you not only need enough protein, which is at least 1 gram per your body weight in pounds, but you need to know when to consume protein to optimize your recovery and muscle growth.
What types of protein is there and how do they differ?
At the current time of writing there are 3 popular types of protein, these are whey protein which comes in two forms isolated whey protein and concentrated whey protein. Then there is also casein protein. You also get egg protein and various others however we will focus on the popular ones. The main difference between whey protein and casein protein is in the time there protein gets absorbed by your body.
Let’s look at each protein separately to see when the best time is to consume each.
Whey protein isolate
This whey protein is the fastest releasing of them all as its contains almost nothing but protein. In fact your body can absorb this protein in about 30 minutes raising your amino acids (protein) to its maximum at this time. Whey protein isolate should be consumed about 30 minutes before your workout or directly after. The downside of whey protein isolate however is that it gets removed from your body just as fast as it’s absorbed. So the time window is really very small to get benefits. You should not drink this protein when you do not intend to exercise as you will be wasting your money and time.
Whey protein concentrate
This whey protein is your next best option and contains about 70-80% protein. Because this protein is not completely without carbohydrates and fats the release time is a bit longer. It takes about 60 minutes from when consumed to raise your blood amino acid level to its maximum and stays in your blood stream for about 120 minutes after consuming. This means you can drink this protein an hour before hitting the weights and get at least an hour’s worth of exercise before the effects are gone.
Casein protein is mostly found in cow’s milk where only 20% of the protein in milk is whey and the other 80% is casein. Casein protein is the slowest form of protein and can take almost 2.75 hours before your blood amino acids levels reach its peak. This protein can stay in your blood stream for nearly 4 hours or more. You should clearly not try and drink casein protein before you go to gym because you won’t even feel the benefits during gym. Casein protein is best before bed or when you go a long stretch without any exercise.
How do you decide what you should drink?
Because you want to train the hardest when your amino acid level is highest you should look at your own schedule and protein needs and decide which is best. If you are getting enough protein from your diet your best bet might be to only take in whey protein concentrate before gym and this is the safest option as the release time is not too fast and the effects lasts long enough. However if you need a faster boost and your training sessions is fast and intense, then you might have great results from using whey protein isolate for maximum recovery and energy during your workout.
You should also really consider casein as an overall safety net throughout the night so that your body has sufficient proteins and does not run out when you need it.