Have you ever wondered, “Can You Drink Whey Protein After Cardio?”
Whey protein is typically viewed as a bodybuilding and resistance training staple.
You hit the weights, then you gulp down a protein shake to aid muscle-building, repair, and recovery.
However, perhaps your weekly bouts of exercise are mainly cardio-based.
Then again, maybe you intersperse your resistance training with cardio workouts.
And of course this begs the question whether you should be consuming whey protein on “cardio days”.
Allow me to reveal all.
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Can You Drink Whey Protein After Cardio?
It’s absolutely fine to drink whey protein after cardio. You should remember that whey protein is nothing more than a dietary supplement. Therefore, consuming protein shakes is simply an easier way to get more protein into your diet. Whey protein is typically consumed after strength training. The additional protein is aimed at building and repairing the muscles. However, you still use your muscles while performing cardio. With that being said, you should also consume carbohydrates after cardio to replenish your depleted glycogen stores.
1. Whey Protein is a Dietary Supplement
I often think that many people view whey protein as some type of magical muscle-building supplement.
Now, don’t get me wrong, protein happens to be one of the main building blocks of muscle.
However, whey protein is simply that, protein, nothing more and nothing less.
Basically, whey protein is a dietary supplement.
So, it’s a way to get more protein into your diet.
Admittedly, most protein-based supplements will contain other ingredients, which are more inclined to building muscle.
But, it is still simply protein.
Protein consumption is obviously great for building and repairing the muscles.
However, eating protein also has a wonderful way of making you feel full and satiated.
Therefore, it’s the ideal macronutrient if you’re looking to burn body fat or lose weight.
The more full you feel after a meal the less likely you are to snack on foods that aren’t particularly good for you.
Realistically, the vast majority of us should be aiming for at least 30% of our daily calories from protein.
There are of course various diets that may call for more or less protein.
With that being said, if you can hit the 30% mark on a daily basis you’re well on your way to eating a healthy diet.
So, if you feel you aren’t getting enough protein, or you want a quick fix after your cardio workout, consuming whey protein is absolutely fine.
2. You Still Use Your Muscles During Cardio
As I’ve mentioned, we typically view protein consumption as a way to aid muscle growth and recovery.
However, you are still using your muscles when performing cardio.
Okay, you may not be using your muscles in exactly the same way as you would with resistance training, but nonetheless your muscles are still getting a workout.
I think that many of us view the term “muscle” as pumped up pecs, biceps that swell, or any other chiselled and ripped part of the body.
But, in truth, we all have a very high percentage of muscle in our bodies.
There are three main types of muscle, namely skeletal, smooth, and cardiac.
And the rippling muscles we typically think of are the skeletal muscles.
These are specialised tissues that are attached to the bones that allow movement, e.g. biceps, quads, etc.
But, this is simply one type of muscle in the body.
We ALL have plenty of muscle.
In fact, even a person who is considered extremely obese is likely to have more muscle than body fat.
Regardless of sex or size, we all generally have somewhere from 60-90% muscle mass in the body.
The leaner you are (less body fat), typically the more muscle mass you have.
And these muscles are definitely being used during a cardio workout.
So, by all means chug down on a post-cardio protein shake.
3. Don’t Forget the Carbs
As I say, there is nothing wrong with drinking whey protein after cardio.
However, you should also take on a healthy dose of carbohydrates.
In fact, a good post-cardio meal will typically have a ratio of 3:1 carbohydrates to protein.
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The main reason for this is that your body will use the muscle’s glycogen stores to fuel your workout.
This is true whether you’re lifting weights, doing cardio, or some form of metabolic conditioning.
Basically, you need energy to exercise, and this energy is taken from glycogen converting into glucose.
Even if you typically perform cardio in a fasted state you’ll still have ample glycogen stores to keep you going for 60-90 minutes.
With that being said, if you do happen to be training for longer than this then it’s a good idea to fuel your cardio with a pre-workout meal.
Once again, this can be a mix of carbohydrates and protein, plus don’t forget to consume some healthy fats too.
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4. Will Whey Protein Make Me Fat?
I was initially surprised to read many fitness forum posts where members were asking whether whey protein would make them fat.
This was especially true of those who simply wanted to perform cardio workouts and were looking for a healthy post-workout snack.
I think that yet again some of these people were confusing what whey protein actually is.
In fact, they probably thought that most protein shakes were mass gainers as well.
Now, admittedly most mass gainers do have a high proportion of protein, and often this is whey protein.
However, they also have various carbohydrates and fats simply to increase the calorie count.
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With that being said, a standard whey protein supplement is definitely not the same as a mass gainer.
In fact, the vast majority of whey protein shakes won’t have much more than 100 calories per serving.
So, this is nowhere near the typical 1,000+ calories that many mass gainer supplements contain.
Therefore, if you’re sticking to a basic whey protein supplement it definitely won’t make you fat.
Remember, whey protein is nothing more than a dietary supplement that allows you to consume a quick dose of protein.
Nevertheless, if you overeat any macronutrient, and you consume more calories than you burn on a daily basis, you will put on weight.
5. Can You Take Whey Protein Before Cardio?
There is often a lot of confusion about the best time to take certain supplements.
And in the case of whey protein it is generally viewed as a post-workout supplement.
Therefore, a quick way to get protein back into the body to help with muscle repair.
Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that your protein shake is just another way to take on more of a certain macronutrient.
So, in reality, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference.
Many people will consume both a pre and post-workout meal.
A meal beforehand to fuel their workout and a meal afterwards to aid recovery.
But, it’s interesting to note the results of a study conducted by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
The study took 11 college-aged men and had them run on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
None of the participants had eaten a meal for 8-10 hours.
However, on a separate occasion they all consumed a pre-workout shake, which contained 25g of either whey protein isolate, casein protein, or maltodextrin (a sweetener and carbohydrate).
It was found that the test subjects who consumed protein prior to their cardio session had a significantly increased post-workout energy expenditure.
Basically, they were burning more calories while at rest following their workout.
So, it was concluded that consuming protein before a cardio workout would help you burn more calories throughout the day.
This is ideal if you’re looking to burn body fat or lose weight.
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So, as you can see, it’s perfectly fine to drink whey protein after cardio.
Whey protein is nothing more than a dietary supplement that allows you to increase your protein intake.
This is ideal irrespective of your body composition goals.
So, increasing your protein consumption can help whether you’re looking to get stronger and build muscle, or if you wish to burn body fat and lose weight.
Plus, a recent study shows that consuming whey protein before cardio can actually help you burn more calories throughout the day.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.