How Long After a Protein Shake to Eat a Meal? Stop Overthinking.

If you have just started training, dieting, and taking supplements, you may be wondering: how long after a protein shake to eat a meal for best results?

There is no limit as to when you should eat a meal after a protein shake. If you have just finished a hard workout, you should eat a meal as soon as possible. You can even have a protein shake with that meal.

This is the answer in a nutshell.

Keep reading if you want more in-depth information in regards to:

  • How long after a protein shake to eat a meal
  • What to eat after a workout
  • How you should time your protein shakes

And understand how people overcomplicate the topic of supplementing with protein.

How long after a protein shake to eat a meal?

How long after a protein shake to eat a meal

As mentioned before, there is no limit as to how much you should wait to get a meal after a protein shake. Ideally, you want to do it as soon as you can, especially if you have recently finished a workout and your body needs nutrients to recover.

Now, there is a lot of misconception about something called the "anabolic window".

Supposedly, there is a 1-hour window of opportunity, right after your workout, where your body can make better use of nutrients than if you waited.

That's why you will see a lot of gym bros gulping a protein shake right after their workout.

However, research performed on the presumed anabolic window lacks cohesive data to form any recommendations. (1)

Which brings us to what we believe to be common sense recommendations:

  • Drink a protein shake as soon as you can after a workout but don't stress it
  • Eat a full meal as soon as you can after a workout
  • Consume around 25 grams of protein for tissue repair

For more helpful recommendations on the topic, you can check this article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

What to eat after a workout?

Picture of a post workout meal consisting of rice, spinach, and fish

Instead of how long after a protein shake to eat a meal, a better question is: what to eat after a workout? Do you even need a protein shake to begin with?

The answer is no, you don't need it. I know, shocker.

That being said, protein shakes are a very convenient way of meeting your protein requirements whether you do it for athletic performance, pregnancy, or for general health benefits.

Anyway...

After a strenuous workout we recommend you to eat a whole-foods based nutritious meal, where you consume all of the macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

Supposing the workout was very difficult, you can have your protein shake alongside the meal. You can even have multiple protein shakes a day.

How should you time your protein shake?

Picture of a shaker cup on a table and protein powder in a tupperware

Now, I know I said that the 1-hour anabolic window doesn't really have any scientific basis. That being said, some moments are better than others to get your protein shake, depending on your goal.

  • Strength and muscle building. If your goal is to build muscle and strength, it can be a good idea to get your protein shake right after your workout so that your body can start repairing itself as soon as possible. (2)(3)
  • Weight loss. If you plan on losing weight, then you may be better off drinking a protein shake in between meals, to curb your cravings and hunger until your next meal.

Obviously, this is all highly dependent on the type of protein shake you are drinking. If you plan on losing weight, you should opt for a low-calorie option.

To learn more about this topic, read our article on how many calories are in a protein shake.

FAQs

As you can see, things are not complicated. Just make sure you get your protein shake and a nutritious meal as soon as possible after a workout.

Now let's see some common questions people have related to this topic.

Can you drink a protein shake with a meal?

Yes, there is nothing wrong with drinking a protein shake with a meal.

That being said, if between the meal and the protein shake you are ingesting too much protein, some of it may be turned into waste. Other than that, it is perfectly safe and doesn't really make a difference.

What should you eat after a protein shake?

We recommend you to eat a whole-foods based meal after a protein shake.

If you can include all the macronutrients - protein, carbohydrates, and fats - that is all the better.

Conclusion

People like to overcomplicate fitness, dieting, and supplementing.

The issue is not how long after a protein shake to eat a meal but how long after a workout to eat a meal. And the answer is, as soon as possible - whether that is before or after your protein shake.

Over to you.