I always heard that the post-workout protein shake is the most crucial time to take fast-absorbing whey protein. I can't take a post-workout shake for these reasons:

  • I live 30 minutes away from the gym. By the time I get home to prepare the shake, the optimal window for protein absorption will have elapsed.
  • I prefer to mix the whey protein with milk, not water. I can't make the shake before hand and take it to the gym with me. The milk will spoil when unrefrigerated for an hour or two.

What I've been doing to make up for the lack of post-workout shake is to eat a relatively slower digesting protein an hour before hitting the gym - usually chicken, beef, or pork. I'm hoping that by timing it right, the protein release will be at its peak right when my workout ends. I'm not 100% sure if I'm timing right. I'm only going by my gut feeling, literally. Do you have any suggestions for improvements on this alternative to the post-workout shake?

  • It's not really an alternative but grab one of those small handheld coolers and some re-freezable ice packs to store the milk during your workout. Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 14:27
  • I usually mix milk with water to make my whey protein shake (especially when I'm cutting); making it right before my training the shake won't spoil, though I live close (one block) to the gym. You could also just put a few ice cubes into your shake, or put it into the fridge for half an hour, this should make it last longer.
    – ldx
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 17:58
  • @idx Or the freezer and let it thaw during the workout. I used to do that with water when cycling. Although don't know if that translates to milk-mixed-protein-shakes.
    – Salsero69
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 1:25
  • Make it with really cold milk and put it in a thermos.
    – Blorgbeard
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 8:09

4 Answers 4


There's a bit of disagreement on the optimal window. I've heard ranges from only 15 minutes to a full hour (my weight loss center gave me the latter window). If it's 15 minutes I can pass that window with my post lift stretches and shower. The bottom line is that you do need more protein when lifting weights.

Some studies suggest that timing is not an issue at all, and some studies show that you do absorb a bit more protein just after a workout. Usually the ones that favor the window are funded by protein manufacturers. Still other studies suggest that it's carbs that you need just after workout more than protein.

Honestly, you can drive yourself nuts thinking about optimal windows. The difference in protein absorption isn't orders of magnitude more. The kidneys process protein at a rate of 4-9g/hour, and I think that time just after workout kicks the kidneys to the higher end of the range.

  • +1 For not over thinking it. I've read plenty of studies that show a good deal of the protein in the massive shakes doesn't absorb fast enough and ends up just passing through. Seems it would make more sense to get a little right away and then drink a moderate sized shake later. Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 13:13
  • If the maximum protein absorption rate is 9 g/hr, then 216 g can be absorbed in one day. Then why is it that 8 time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman eats 546 g of protein per day? 330 g would be wasted if your claim was true. Ronnie is the record holder for the most Mr. Olympia titles. He KNOWS how to use protein better than anyone else. So there seems to be something wrong with your figures, Berin.
    – JoJo
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 6:04
  • I have read the 9 g/hr figure in a number of articles myself as well, so there is something amiss for sure.
    – Salsero69
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 6:41
  • @JoJo, does Ronnie Coleman use steroids? That alters the body's ability to absorb protein. Unfortunately a great number of bodybuilders do use steroids, and the figures I have are for natural or raw figures. Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 18:47
  • I'm not sure if Coleman takes steroids or not. Don't they do blood tests for the Mr. Olympia contest to prevent steroid usage? At the end of this video you see Ronnie open up a war chest of pills large enough to run a pharmacy. I have no idea how to tell which of those pills are steroids.
    – JoJo
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 4:20

Ask the gym if they sell it. I actually haven't seen a gym where they don't serve protein shakes.

If they don't: ask them if you can use their fridge, so you can bring your own shake.


Milk doesn't spoil quite as quickly as you think if you are in air conditioning. It used to be delivered from carriages in the olden days, with or without ice. To make it safer, however, you can steam it in the microwave the night before, let it cool, and then put it in the fridge for tomorrow. It'll essentially be ultra-pasteurized and taste caramelized like milk in a latte from Starbucks. Should be fine for a couple hours. Don't mix the protein in hot or it will glob and form strands. You can also get shelf safe milk like parmalat, which may be an acquired taste.


What's wrong with water-mixed protein shake? It takes a while to get used to, but I think it's worth the benefit. Or you could try a Thermos, it should keep your shake cold.

As for chicken, I know it takes a long time to digest, you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to eat it. But how long I'm not sure.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.