One of the most popular supplements of today is undoubtedly protein. The lion part of its consumers tends to take it both in the morning and directly after training. While the rest usually drops it whenever they want.
And it's true that protein supplement timing really matters to body composition.
However, the best time to gulp down your favourite protein drink may depend on your goals, according to new research.
Researchers from Purdue University conducted a systematic review that has delivered a number of exciting insights into the effectiveness of protein supplement timing.
The study, led by Joshua Hudson, was about reviewing over 2000 relevant papers published before 2017 that prescribed a protein supplement and measured changes in body composition for a period of six weeks or more.
As Muscle Evolution reports, they eventually selected 34 randomised controlled trials with 59 intervention groups that met the review criteria and qualitatively assessed them.
More specifically, the researchers looked at the effects of protein supplements consumed with meals, versus between meals, on resistance-training-induced body composition changes in adults.
The answers they found may have pretty profound implications for those aiming to alter their body composition.
So what are the differences in timing?
When we take protein for muscle gain or weight management, it is generally advised that protein supplement consumption occurs between meals, particularly after resistance training to create a positive net protein balance.
But according to the research, consuming a protein supplement between meals seems to increase energy intake and, therefore, body weight. At the same time, it may decrease compensatory eating behaviours.
Conversely, consuming a protein supplement twice daily with meals led to complete energetic compensation in adults who performed resistance training, which consistently decreased fat mass in participants in the studies under review. They also showed a consistent increase in lean mass.
Consuming protein supplements between meals had inconsistent effects on fat mass. The researchers suggested that “consuming protein supplements with meals may lead to partial meal replacement that would displace the energy that would be consumed otherwise.”
They, therefore, concluded that:
“Concurrently with resistance training, consuming protein supplements with meals, rather than between meals, may more effectively promote weight control and reduce fat mass without influencing improvements in lean mass.”
Consequently, regardless of when you drink your protein supplement in relation to meals, you'll add muscle mass to your frame in response to intense regular training sessions.
The only thing we should take out of this paper is that a subtle difference in body composition can be achieved by shifting the timing of your shakes.
If you're looking to bulk up a bit, drink up between meals as this approach may be more effective at increasing overall body mass.
But when you are towards cutting (adding lean muscle and reducing body fat), scientists advise you to consume your protein supplements with meals.