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I've been on an introductory fitness routine for several months to slim down. I've managed to lose 30lb (down to 180 from 210, I'm 6' 1" so this puts me to the upper limit of my BMI), and I've developed some muscle. I'd now like to start researching supplements to build mass (not a lot, just enough to fill out my shirts better), and find out the best time to ingest nutrients to optimize the availability of them during my workout. Is it better to take my shakes before or after exercising ? One hour apart ? 2 ? 3 ? Please forgive my ignorance, this is all really new.

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Good question, and your goal of adding mass is a fine one, but please don't use BMI to judge your body composition. It's terrible for that purpose. (See here, or here). If you want to have more muscles, judge yourself purely on appearance. If you want to be stronger, judge yourself on how much you can lift. –  Dave Liepmann Aug 31 '11 at 13:22
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The best time to take protein shakes is within half an hour after exercise. I actually take it right after my last set even before I take my shower. Also taking a shake during the day is recommended because your body needs a lot of protein when working out.

Edit:

Link with a study about when it's best to eat protein (immediately after your work out):

http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/how-protein-supplements-athletes-work-new-research

If you're taking creatine it's normally advised to take it 30-45 minutes before training.

Normally, supplement labels have an advisory on when to take them.

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+1 for taking the shake within a half hour. Whey shakes are the most efficient way to get animal protein/BCAAs quickly after a workout. But for the rest of the day, normal food is fine--there's no need for an additional shake. Hard-boiled ggs, nuts, milk and meat are all fine for protein snacks during the rest of the day. The shake is only for convenience in getting your protein immediately after training. –  Dave Liepmann Aug 31 '11 at 13:28
    
You're absolutly right,normal food is fine. But there are days I leave home at 6 a.m and come back at 11 p.m, during work I just can't eat enough eggs, nuts and meat. Then I just drink a shake or two. But as I said you're right, eating well is important and sufficient for the rest of the day. –  Danny Aug 31 '11 at 13:54
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fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/792/… A good list of how much protein one needs. So you can calculate if you need an extra shake during the rest of the day. –  Danny Aug 31 '11 at 14:03
    
I would change that to say "extra animal protein" but otherwise I agree :) –  Dave Liepmann Aug 31 '11 at 14:32
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Thank you guys very much for the response, it helps a lot. –  Alex Marshall Aug 31 '11 at 16:24
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