Why Timing Matters: The Best Time to Have a Protein Shake and a Meal

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 21st, 2023

Wondering when you should sip on that protein shake and how long you should wait before eating a meal? You’re not alone! Today, we’re diving into the best practices surrounding protein shakes and meal timing to help you fuel your body optimally.

The Short Answer: 1-2 Hours

Before diving deep into the details, the straightforward answer to your question is: wait one to two hours after a protein shake before eating a meal.

woman in black tank top and blue denim jeans holding clear plastic bottle

Why Protein is Crucial for Your Body

Proteins are an essential nutrient for the body, serving vital roles in muscle repair, growth, and cellular function. Comprising amino acids, they are the cornerstone for a multitude of physiological processes. According to trusted sources like the National Library of Medicine, proteins are indispensable for the growth, maintenance, and regulation of body tissues and organs.

What Protein Shakes Do For You

Often favored by bodybuilders and athletes, protein shakes are high-protein beverages aimed at boosting body mass and reducing body fat. Besides being a protein powerhouse, these shakes may also contain other beneficial nutrients like branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), glutamine, and essential fatty acids.

How Long Should You Wait After a Protein Shake to Eat?

If you’re looking to eat after a protein shake, be mindful of the protein content in both the shake and the meal. For instance, if your shake has 20 grams of protein, and you eat a meal an hour later, you can go lighter on the protein in that meal.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that an average adult consume 0.37 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, if you’re highly active, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests a higher intake—ranging from 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound.

Post-Workout Meals: What to Include

After an intense workout, your body is primed to absorb more nutrients. So, a balanced meal with adequate carbs and proteins is beneficial. According to the American Council on Exercise, you can eat immediately after consuming a protein shake, especially if you’ve engaged in a strenuous workout.

Protein Digestion: A Simplified Explanation

Digesting protein isn’t just about gulping down a protein-rich shake. It’s a complex biochemical process that begins with an enzyme called pepsin in your stomach. Pepsin helps break down the protein, enabling further digestion in the small intestine. On average, liquid forms of protein, like shakes, can be digested within 1.5 hours.

Absorption Rates for Different Types of Whey Protein

Whey protein can be absorbed at rates of 8 to 10 grams per hour. This is essential information if you’re planning on consuming shakes with more than 15 grams of whey protein, as excess protein may not be fully utilized by your body.

Timing Protein Shakes Between Meals

Spacing your protein intake throughout the day is a sensible approach. The recommended daily intake can range from 0.36 to 0.76 grams per pound of body weight, depending on your activity level. Therefore, having a protein shake or bar between meals can be a smart strategy.

When is the Best Time for a Protein Shake?

According to recent research, the timing of your protein shake is less critical than the total daily intake of protein and carbs. Whether you have it before or after a workout doesn’t make a significant difference. However, if you’re trying to build muscle, you might benefit from a post-workout shake.

Don’t Forget to Hydrate

Before having your protein shake, ensure you’re well-hydrated. Drink at least 8 ounces of water two hours before the shake to facilitate nutrient absorption.


The timing of your protein shake and meals depends on various factors like your activity level, overall health, and specific fitness goals. Always consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist to make the most educated decisions about your protein intake.

So, there you have it—a thorough guide to mastering the timing of your protein shakes and meals. Whether you’re an athlete or someone simply looking to improve your diet, understanding these aspects can make a significant difference in achieving your fitness goals.


Editorial Staff

Our writers, editors, content managers, and SEO specialist. We all take part in crafting amazing articles. We spend hours ensuring that each article is based on facts, researched, and thorough. You'll never want to click the back button to look for more answers other than here!