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One Great Answer: When is the Best Time to Consume Whey Protein?

By Brian Sabin’s "One GREAT Answer" series takes your health and fitness questions to the world’s smartest experts.

Is there a best time of the day to consume whey protein? How many shakes is it safe to have per day?

Lila Walker, United Kingdom

The Answer

The best time of day to consume whey protein is when you find it convenient to do so. While much is made of nutrient timing, recent studies show that when it comes to protein, “when” isn’t nearly as important as “how much.”

A recent study published in the "International Journal of Sports Nutrition" compared two groups of experienced weight lifters. One consumed 42 grams of protein powder immediately before and after training, while the second took the supplements at times that were far away from their lifting sessions. The study found no differences in strength or body composition between the two groups after 10 weeks.

The takeaway? You can have your protein shake whenever you want, so long as you consume enough protein to support your training goals. (Research indicates that active people should take in anywhere from .5 to 1.0 gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight.)

As for the total number of shakes you can have in a day, there really isn’t a point where consuming protein powder would be unsafe, per se. But relying too much on shakes will decrease your consumption of whole food sources, which are more nutrient dense than lab-crafted whey powder. The vitamins, minerals and other compounds you get when you eat real foods support your overall health. Which is why I personally recommend no more than two to three servings of protein powder (including bars) per day.

About the Expert

Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) through the International Society of Sports Nutritionists (ISSN) as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

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