21 Mar Muscle Nutrition: Should You Drink Protein on Rest Days?
Serious athletes and bodybuilders know that getting enough protein on training days is essential to gain muscle. Sports nutrition supplements like protein smoothies and shakes are popular because they’re an easy and convenient way to get that protein — even if you’re an amateur athlete. But should you drink protein shakes on rest days too?
To answer that question, we’ll first explain what protein is and why we all need it. We’ll also explain how it can help you meet your personal fitness goals. Then you can decide for yourself whether you should drink protein shakes on rest days.
What Is Protein?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients your body needs to function. The other two — carbohydrates and healthy fats — are just as essential but for different reasons.
When you consume protein, your digestive system breaks it down into its constituent amino acids. These essential amino acids are considered the building blocks of all the organs and tissues of your body, including your skeletal system and organs, and — most importantly for our purposes here — your muscles.
The amount of protein you require depends on a few factors, including your age, activity level, and personal goals. Even if you’re only moderately active, you need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. And if you’re serious about your training, you may need 2 grams of protein per kilogram per day — or even more if you’re an endurance athlete.
Your protein intake should come primarily from high-quality protein sources, starting with whole foods. Meat, chicken, fish, and eggs all help to meet your protein needs. Or, if you prefer plant-based protein, foods like legumes, quinoa, and chia seeds are good alternatives.
That’s a lot of whole foods to prepare and chew though, so getting enough protein can sometimes be a challenge — especially if you’re also culinarily and/or time-challenged. Because of this, many athletes turn to protein powder to make sure they’re getting adequate protein every day.
It’s a no-brainer to have your protein smoothie or shake on workout days — whether you do it before or after your workout is your choice. The question is: should you drink protein shakes on rest days as well? Let’s answer that by looking at some of the things protein can do for you.
Protein Helps Build and Repair Muscle
It’s probably no surprise that protein plus resistance training builds muscle. What’s important to understand here is that muscle building takes place in two stages. The first part happens while you’re at the gym. As you put stress on your muscles through your strength training workout, you create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. Your muscles then need time to recover — and that’s when muscle protein synthesis (or muscle growth) happens.
Your muscles can take anywhere between one and five days to fully recover from an intense workout. That’s why it’s a good idea to work on different muscle groups each day and also take some full rest days to avoid overtraining.
Your body uses the amino acids in your system to repair your muscles while you rest. During the process of muscle recovery, your muscles grow larger and stronger.
Q: If your fitness goal is to build muscle, should you drink protein shakes on rest days?
A: Yes. Even on non-workout days, your body is still using amino acids to repair and build muscle.
Protein Reduces DOMS
While you may be tired immediately post-workout, every athlete has also experienced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This often happens a day or two after an intense workout as your muscle tissue goes into an equally intense repair phase. Taking protein during this time has been shown to reduce DOMS and speed up recovery.
Q: If you often experience DOMS after a workout, should you drink protein shakes on rest days?
A: Yes. You’ll likely experience less discomfort and recover faster so you can get back to your exercise routine.
Protein Helps You Burn Fat and Preserve Muscle
If your goal is weight loss, you may be cutting calories while still working out at the same high level. Your body needs fuel and it first looks for energy from glucose in your system. If there’s none available from the macros you’re eating, your body starts breaking down your muscle to access the glycogen stored there — this is known as muscle protein breakdown.
But the last thing you want is to lose your lean muscle mass. Getting extra protein keeps plenty of amino acids flowing through your system, even on off days. As a bonus, protein keeps you feeling full for longer, so you won’t be tempted to eat more than you should on rest days (especially important if you’re counting calories). A high-protein diet also boosts your metabolism, so you continue to burn fat even while you’re resting.
Q: If you want to lose weight, should you drink protein shakes on rest days?
A: Yes. It will preserve your lean muscle, keep you feeling full, and boost your metabolism.
Protein Can Help You Gain Weight
If your goal is weight gain, the muscle-building power of protein smoothies can help. You simply need to eat more calories each day. To speed the process along, you can add extra calories to your protein smoothie with nut butter, coconut oil, or Greek yogurt. As a bonus, muscle weighs more than fat so your muscle-building efforts all help too.
Q: If you want to gain weight, should you drink protein shakes on rest days?
A: Yes. It’s an important component of your calorie intake, along with extra carbs and healthy fats.
The bottom line is that no matter what your health and fitness goals are, the answer to the question, “Should you drink protein shakes on rest days?” is almost always yes.
Important Note: If you have any health concerns, consult a nutritionist or another professional health provider before adding extra protein to your diet.
Where to Get Your Protein Powder
It’s important to start with whole foods as the foundation of your diet as you’ll be getting a wide spectrum of the daily nutrients you need. However, if you’re struggling to meet your protein requirements with whole foods alone, protein supplements are an excellent way to fill the gap. They come in many variations, from animal-based options like whey protein or casein to plant-based proteins like soy, brown rice, or pea protein.
The trick is to know which protein supplements are genuinely worth the money you invest in them. One sure bet is Ingredient Optimized, which supplies ioWhey Protein, ioPea Protein, ioBCAA, and ioCollagen.
Ingredient Optimized products go through a high-tech process that enhances the protein structure, increasing amino acid absorption. Studies show that they’re far more bioavailable than non-optimized protein powder, promoting increased strength, muscle mass, and recovery.
You can find ioProtein in these partner products:
- Performix ioWhey Protein
- Kaged Muscle Plantein
- Kaged Muscle Clean Meal
- Myprotein The ioPEA
- Glaxon Wonder Collagen Protein
- Genepro G3 Unflavored Protein
- Genepro Plant Protein
Should You Drink Protein Shakes on Rest Days?
Protein is one of the critical macronutrients you need for optimal health. It provides your body with the amino acids it uses to build your bones, organs, and muscles, among many other important functions.
While your protein should come first and foremost from whole foods, getting enough can be a challenge for serious athletes who need substantially more protein than the average person. Protein supplements are an answer to this problem and are often consumed in protein shakes or smoothies.
Taking your protein on workout days makes sense, but if you’re wondering if you should drink protein shakes on rest days too, the answer is probably yes. Whether you want to build muscle, reduce DOMS, lose fat, or gain weight, protein can help. Your body needs protein no matter what day it is.