The Effects of Protein Supplement Timing on Weight Loss Christi Timmers-Smith Journal of the American Center for Nutrition, vol. 1, no. 1. Published 2022-10-19; Updated: 2022-12-18

Best Time to Drink Protein Shakes for Weight Loss

The human body needs protein to survive and high-protein diets have been shown to aid in weight loss through thermogenic means and via muscle protein synthesis[1] . Consumption of a purely carbohydrate diet without adequate protein will cause blood sugar to spike, and the body will store the excess glucose as fat [2]. Balancing carbohydrates with healthy fats and protein-rich foods provides the body a pool of amino acids needed for muscle development while burning stored fat sources for energy [1]. 

While many health enthusiasts realize the potential of adding protein supplements to their exercise regimens, few understand the complexities surrounding protein intake timing. The effects of protein supplementation can improve muscular strength, weight loss, and lean body mass depending on type, timing, and amounts.

When analyzing the best time to consume protein shakes for weight loss, you must consider how the protein source affects your metabolism. Protein supplements are manufactured products designed to help increase daily protein intake. Rather than eating an entire meal, one could consume easy-to-digest shakes offering a quick and simple protein source. 

Adding protein powder-based shakes to your diet may be a simple way to increase your protein and satiety, without a high caloric intake. Additionally, the extra protein can assist with reduction of adipose tissue without compromising your lean muscle mass. 

Types of Protein Supplements for Weight Loss

Protein supplements typically include a powder derived from a highly concentrated protein source. The most popular protein powders include whey and casein, though other plant-based options exist for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone who doesn’t prefer the flavor of dairy-based products. 

The effects of protein supplement timing can vary depending on the type of protein supplement you choose:

Whey Protein

Whey is a dairy-based protein powder that contains essential amino acids and offers fast and easy digestion, which means you can consume it immediately before or after a workout. The essential amino acids help your muscles repair from intense workouts, and the high protein concentration can help you develop lean muscles without gaining fat [3]. You may not enjoy whey if you are lactose intolerant or don’t like the sour, yogurt-like flavor. 

is whey or plant protein better

Casein Protein

Casein is another dairy-based protein supplement that includes all the same essential amino acids as whey, though it absorbs much slower. Some people prefer consuming casein at night rather than right after a workout so that their bodies have time to digest the protein. One research study comparing protein supplements found casein to be three times more effective than whey in weight loss and twice as effective in muscle growth [4]. 

Soy Protein

Plant-based soy protein powders contain essential amino acids and soy isoflavones that can provide many health benefits. Soy can improve cognitive function, memory, brain cell degeneration rates, and more [5] [6] [7]. Consuming soy proteins after workouts can support your muscles while nourishing your brain.  

Hemp Protein

Hemp is another plant-based protein source that contains omega-3 and omega-6 healthy fats and essential amino acids. These fatty acids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, typically associated with high-intensity workouts [8]. 

Rice Protein

Rice protein includes all the essential amino acids, minus lysine, in plant-based form. Clinical research discovered zero outcome differences between participants training with rice protein versus whey [9]. If you want the results and fast absorption of whey without the dairy or flavor, consider rice protein. 

Pea Protein

Consuming wheat, soy, or gluten-based protein powders may increase inflammation or gastrointestinal discomfort [10]. Many people also have severe allergies and intolerances to such ingredients. If you want to avoid wheat, soy, and gluten, consider pea protein, a plant-based alternative packed with the same essential amino acids. 

How Protein Shakes Can Help You Lose Weight

When considering the effects of consuming protein on weight loss, you must account for how protein shakes target weight loss in various ways. For example, if you use protein shakes to control your appetite, you may need to consume them when you feel the most hungry. Conversely, if you use protein to build muscle mass, you must consume it following your workout schedule. 

Control Hunger

The hormone ghrelin regulates hunger cues in your body. Increased ghrelin levels cause excessive hunger, while lower levels allow you to feel full while eating less. Protein intake lowers blood sugar and ghrelin levels, ultimately helping you control your appetite and feel more satiated [11].  

Reduced hunger can make it easier to follow a healthy diet. When increasing energy levels and adding intense workouts to your exercise regimen, your body often responds with excess hunger cues. Overeating can easily ruin any weight loss progress you gain while working out. 

With protein shakes, you can consume the right nutrients in balanced portions, controlling your hunger and helping you feel satisfied. Balanced blood sugar levels can also reduce sugar cravings.

Boost Metabolism

Metabolism is the chemical process of converting food sources into energy. Your body uses this energy to power vital cell functions. Slow metabolisms burn through food at reduced rates, causing your body to store the excess calories as fat. 

Your body must use more energy to digest protein than fat or carbs [12]. Protein has a thermogenic effect of 20% to 30%, while carbohydrates and proteins range from 0% to 10% [12]. Your body must burn more calories to digest protein than other foods, which ultimately boosts your metabolism. 

With an increased metabolism from protein intake, your body can consume more calories daily without storing fat. Fast metabolisms make it easier to follow healthy diets, helping you see weight loss results sooner. 

Maintain Lean Muscle Mass

If you decrease your caloric intake without consuming adequate protein or completing necessary workouts, your body may first decrease muscle mass before melting any fat [13]. A protein-rich diet helps nourish your muscles with what they need to maintain their size, even if you reduce your caloric intake. 

Protein is composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all the muscles inside your body. Increasing your protein intake supplies your muscles with the necessary nutrients to heal and continue growing. Coupling this factor with increased metabolism and reduced hunger cues, a high-protein diet can help you achieve lean muscle mass and weight loss goals. 

Optimal Time to Consume a Protein Shake for Weight Loss

The optimal time to consume a protein shake for weight loss is before your workout or early in the day. The protein-rich shake will offer sustained energy and nutrients throughout the day while suppressing your appetite as your work out, burn calories, and follow your standard daily routine.  

The best time to consume a protein shake for muscle mass gains is directly after your workout. After finishing your exercise, your body needs vital nutrients, so you can supply it with a protein-rich supplement to support ample muscle growth. 

Understanding the effects of protein supplement timing on weight loss can help you achieve your fitness goals. Properly timed protein-rich diets allow you to maintain lean muscle mass while losing weight.