Should You Drink Protein Shakes on Rest Days? [According To Science]

Supplementing with protein shakes can sometimes get confusing. In this article we will be answering the question: should you drink protein shakes on rest days?

Yes, you should drink protein shakes on rest days. Supplementing with protein powder on off days helps your muscles and other tissues recover. Since full recovery can take up to 48 hours, it's unlikely your protein needs will decrease on rest days.

This is the answer in a nutshell. Keep reading if you want to learn:

  • What are your protein needs
  • Should you drink protein shakes on off days (in-depth)
  • Our top reasons to use protein powder on rest days

Let's dive right into it.

What are your protein needs?

Picture of a post workout snack made of protein bars and fruit

The best way to gauge whether you should drink protein shakes on rest days - or any other day for that matter - is to find your protein needs and assess whether you are meeting them or not.

That sounds more difficult than it actually is.

How much protein for weight gain and muscle building

If you want to gain weight and maximize muscle building in the process, aim for 0.73 to 1.1g of protein per pound of body weight, or 1.6 to 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (1)(2)

These guidelines are fair game for most people.

However, they don't apply to certain groups, like those suffering from obesity.

If your weight is over the normal range, you can use the above guidelines on lean body mass, instead of total body mass. Alternatively, you can just convert your height to centimeters, and have your protein intake equal to that number.

For instance, someone who is 5'7" will eat around 170g of protein per day.

From here, things are pretty straightforward. You should certainly drink protein shakes on rest days if you can't meet your recommended protein intake for whatever reason.

Same goes for workout days.

How much protein for weight loss

If you want to lose weight, your protein intake is not that important. It doesn't even matter how many protein shakes you are drinking a day, as seen in this article.

As long as you are getting your daily recommended dose of 0.36 to 0.73g of protein per pound of body weight, or 0.8 to 1.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight, you are golden. (3)

That being said, it may be a good idea to eat over the recommended amount.

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient out of the three - the other two being carbs and fats. (4)

Therefore, getting more of it into your diet will prevent you from getting hungry as quickly, which is one of the issues most people face during a weight loss phase.

Should you drink protein shakes on off days?

should you drink protein shakes on rest days

Yes, as I mentioned before, during rest days your protein needs will not decrease.

Therefore, if you can't meet your protein requirements from whole foods, then you should get your protein powder to make up for it and prevent any muscle loss or sub-optimal recovery. You can even drink two protein shakes a day if need be.

In the intro I mentioned how recovery of your muscle and other tissues can take up to 48 hours.

Imagine that you finish a big workout, get a shake in, and then for the following two days you are no longer getting enough protein to support your recovery. This is a surefire way to hit a plateau or even regress in your training.

Why should you drink protein shakes on rest days?

My clients and I use protein shakes on a regular basis, even though we are getting all the protein we need from our whole foods diet.

Why is that? There are two reasons:

  • It is a convenient snack. Whether I make it into a shake, protein yogurt, protein oatmeal, or use it in recipes, protein powder is very convenient. With it I can whip a quick and nutritious snack in a matter of minutes, or just replace one of my chicken breasts with a shake.
  • Curbs cravings. We all get cravings, especially during a weight loss phase. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, then there are only three choices: fail with your diet, suffer through your diet, or get protein powder and curb your cravings.

Other than these two, there is really no reason. As long as you have a balanced diet where you get all the macro and micronutrients in the right doses, supplementation is not necessary.

Conclusion

So should you drink protein shakes on rest days?

Yes, you should. However, it's only "mandatory" if you are not already getting enough protein from your diet and you have to make up for it. If you are already eating enough protein in your day to day life, then supplementation is just a matter of convenience and preference.

Personally, I like to try different recipes with protein powder, especially on off days when I have more free time. So I choose to use it.

For you, it may be different.

Over to you.