Registered Dietitian Shares The Best Time To Have Protein

If you work out often, you've probably come across a piece of advice for recovery and gaining muscle mass that revolves around when to take protein. While everyone is different, one popular idea is that consuming protein after a workout is good for promoting recovery — hence all of the post-workout protein shakes. In an exclusive interview, Health Digest spoke with Kiran Campbell, registered dietician and owner of Kiran Campbell Nutrition, to learn more about the ideal time to take protein.

"The research on whether or not you should consume protein prior to bed is conflicting," according to Campbell. "What's most important to remember is that depending on the type of protein you choose to consume, it may affect how well you sleep. In other words, think of high protein foods you wouldn't have before bed, such as beef, since it's high in fat and hard to digest, explained Campbell. "Instead, you could try a protein shake, yogurt, or glass of chocolate milk to add to your daily protein intake and prevent indigestion. One study reported that drinking a 150 calorie protein-rich beverage prior to bed appeared to improve muscle protein synthesis, morning metabolism and satiety," she said. Notably, you should reduce protein intake if you have kidney or liver disease, or a metabolic disorder, like phenylketonuria.

When to have protein and why

The best time to have protein is in the morning, shared Campbell. "After sleeping (fasting) overnight, you need fuel and nutrients for your body in the form of a balanced meal — which includes protein, carbohydrate, and fat," explained Campbell. "The protein you eat at meals gives you a feeling of satiety while also helping to maintain lean muscle mass. Currently, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein for adults with minimal physical activity is 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight."

She added, "There are also health conditions that may require additional protein consumption such as if you have any wounds or have extensive surgery coming up. The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle and tissue that can help you recover faster than those who do not consume adequate amounts of protein during these times." If you work out, for instance, then a quick protein shake or small meal with a high-quality protein source post-workout can help build muscle and heal torn muscle fibers.

Finally, eating protein sources during snack times is also a suitable way to get your daily protein in. "In particular, consuming protein with carbohydrates is beneficial to those with diabetes as this helps balance blood sugars," concludes Campbell.