Let me start with a quick side note and try to warn you of a pitfall: when using a protein supplement you shouldn’t just choose a great tasting protein supplement and then just think of what other things you can mix with it so you can make it even more enjoyable. In other words taste is not a priority. To truly benefit from your protein supplement you really have to look at the times you use it.
Fortunately for you, all the hard work has been done and all the guessing taken out. So, without further delay, I will present to you, in decreasing priority, the best times to use a protein supplement:
A) first thing after you finish your workout — often called the post workout meal this is without question the most important meal of your muscle building endeavors. Really, its importance cannot be overstated.
Quick tips: use an easily digestible protein source. If you use a protein supplement make sure it has a high bio-availability. Check out this article if you don’t know exactly what that is. Also, make sure your protein supplement has no fats or carbs in it as this will make digestion more difficult and increase the time amino acids take to reach your muscle cells.
B) first thing in the morning — after sleep your body is in a catabolic state, it needs protein and it needs it fast. Otherwise it will start chowing down on your hard earned muscle. Remember, muscle tissue is highly active metabolic tissue and it is expensive for your body to keep it, so it will start shedding it at the slightest provocation. The same rules as above: use an easily digestible protein source and if you use a protein supplement make sure it doesn’t have any fats or carbs in it. This article will explain why the best protein supplement has no carbs and this one will explain why the best protein supplement has no fat.
C) meal replacement or snack — this is if you are really trying to increase your protein intake. The same idea as above, but I am also going to share a little known tip: if you use a protein supplement, make sure you mix it with water, not milk or juice. This is because your body will digest it easier that way. Pick up a food combining book if you want to know more about this or drop me a line in the comments.
D) before going to bed — This is one of those that really depends on the individual. Most experts on healthy living recommend that you do not eat anything for two hours before bed. The reason being that your digestion will be impaired and food will just sit and rot in your stomach. I personally have found that the best way for me to go to sleep is to eat something before bed and I actually feel good in the morning if I do this. But, like I said this is not a recommended practice. What I would do in your place is simply test this out. Eat an easily digestible protein food before bed for one week and then skip it for another. Note your observations every day and make a decision based on that.
E) pre workout — now this one is actually counter productive and I am quite amazed that there are still people who actually recommend this. See, it goes like this. When you eat something your body will shift its energy expenditure to digestion and as this is a highly energy consuming process you will have less energy to exercise and make your workout less productive. Not only that, but exercising after you eat is simply unpleasant and unnatural. The only exercise you should undertake after any meal is a nice walk. That’s it.