Is there benefit to taking a protein supplement when you don't workout? Or should you only have protein shakes after training? This is something we get asked quite a lot, and here's what we have to say about it:
Let's start with the basics: protein shakes are commonly taken after exercise, because your muscles need the amino acids in protein to refuel, and therefore repair and grow. But, this isn't the only reason you can benefit from protein powders.
Remember, there's nothing 'lazy' about taking a rest day - they are an essential part of a well-programmed training plan. By taking adequate rest, you're giving your body the time it needs to repair. To help it to do this, you still need plenty of carbs, fats and, of course, protein(!). It's been shown that not consuming enough protein on rest days can still hinder performance and muscle growth.
So the short answer is: yes! But we're going to dig a little deeper into why you might want to consider adding a protein shake to your diet on rest days...
Overall Protein Consumption
We advocate keeping things simple, which means looking at the overall picture rather than stressing about details and timings that won't make much difference for the average person. In general over the course of the day, are you consuming enough protein in your diet on rest days? Eating a varied diet and lots of whole food protein sources is important, but protein powder can be a great way to top up your intake. It's also ultra-convenient - perfect for those who are always on the go!
Similarly, if you (like us!) have a serious sweet tooth, homemade protein balls, shakes and dessert recipes can be a great alternative to grabbing a candy bar. It's not unusual for people to find their sugar cravings and hunger is actually higher on rest days, which is due to re-regulating hunger hormones, and your body needing to replenish your depleted calorie reserves that you burnt off the previous day.
Here at Neat, we love a quick chocolate protein shake or smoothie mid-afternoon to keep our blood sugar levels stable and stomachs satisfied whilst we power through our inboxes!
Fuel Your Goals
One final thing to consider before adding in an extra protein shake to your rest days, is your individual goals and how best to attain them.
Are you looking to lose weight? Then eating a high protein diet will help you to maintain muscle mass whilst you're eating in a calorie deficit (eating less than you're burning off). Protein is also incredibly satiating, so makes for an awesome snack to keep you feeling fuller for longer. If growing muscle is your focus, then again, protein is crucial! You need to be consuming more than you break down when you are training, so adding a shake into your day is an easy way to top up your intake - and is much quicker than cooking a chicken breast!
Even if you want to just improve your overall health, remember that any tissue in the body uses protein to build and repair. So to improve your skin, nails, hair or even to boost your immune system, looking at your protein consumption is a great place to start.