Are Protein Shakes Bad For Cardio?

Cardio is said to be the most critical yet strenuous exercise of them all. It benefits the brain’s health, improves blood flow, and lowers

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Cardio is said to be the most critical yet strenuous exercise of them all. It benefits the brain’s health, improves blood flow, and lowers the chances of any cardiovascular disease. After a challenging cardio session, you’re going to be sweaty, tired, and your legs will probably give up on you. At this point, you may crave something refreshing, but water is not as tempting as a sweet protein shake.

Mid-sip of this delicious goodness, have you ever wondered whether a protein shake is suitable for your cardio exercise? Or whether drinking a protein shake before or after cardio could jeopardize your weight loss efforts?

Protein shakes contain a dense number of calories, which can come in between your goals. Plus, drinking protein shakes before cardio can make it difficult for you to burn off all those extra calories. But they won’t necessarily be bad for you if you balance it out with a low food intake.

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Protein Shakes With Cardio

If taken with the right dietary plan, protein shakes can help you achieve your health goals quicker. Here are a few benefits of drinking protein shakes:

  1. Suppress Your Appetite

A protein shake after a workout can significantly suppress your appetite throughout the day. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that females having a high protein breakfast consumed 135 fewer calories than those who had a low protein breakfast or skipped breakfast. This is because proteins help people feel more sated all day as compared to other nutrients.

  1. Healthy Metabolism

When the correct protein diet is combined with strength training such as cardio, it can aid metabolism and build your muscles. An increase in muscles has a direct connection to higher energy production and a healthy metabolism.

  1. Weight Loss and Weight Management

In addition to lowering the appetite, protein intake can help you lose weight, especially around the abs. When you feel sated, you eat less, and then, ultimately, you cut back on calories, which helps control your diet. For this reason, protein shakes are a part of a low-calorie diet.

Proteins and carbohydrates make it hard to gain the weight you have lost. Plus, it can minimize the amount of weight you gain.

Protein Shakes Before Cardio

Some nutritionists and fitness gurus recommend drinking protein shakes before cardio. However, protein shakes on top of your standard diet plan pre-workout isn’t a good idea if your goal is to lose weight.

But if you want to build some muscle, protein shakes can provide the energy and nutrients you need. Drinking protein shakes pre-workout can be beneficial for the following reasons:

  1. Provides Energy

Cardio increases your body’s need for energy. During workouts, the energy comes from carbohydrates, which are broken down to glucose. You can quickly get tired if the body is not given the proper fuel.

The protein shakes contain not only proteins but carbohydrates as well. As a result, drinking them an hour before your workout can provide your body with the fuel it needs.

  1. Hydrating Your Body

Drinking protein shakes pre-workout boosts hydration, allowing you to stay hydrated during the workout. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, not hydrating yourself properly before a workout can raise the core temperature and impair the body’s ability to cool itself post-workout. This can also cause strain on your cardiovascular system.

  1. Proteins

During cardio, the body only requires carbohydrates as fuel instead of proteins. But protein is still essential when it comes to repairing and building muscles. The proteins stimulate the part of the brain responsible for fixing the damaged muscle tissues. For this reason, fitness professionals recommend drinking protein shakes before a cardio workout.

  1. Helps Energize the Body After Exercise

There is no doubt that exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle. It helps in weight loss, muscle building and keeps your heart and body healthy and efficient. On the other hand, it can strain your muscles and drain your energy. Plus, excess loss of water through sweat makes you dehydrated.

As a result, you may start to feel sluggish, and the muscle tissues break down. Drinking a protein shake before cardio can give you the energy to get through the workout session. It can also ensure that any muscle damage resulting from intense exercise can recover quickly.

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Drinking Protein Shakes After Cardio

Drinking protein shakes after a cardio workout has two main advantages: recovery and improving the body’s overall performance after a workout.

  1. Recovery

When it comes to refueling energy, your carbohydrate to protein ratio matters. The recommended ratio of carbs to protein is 3:1.

Carbohydrates replenish the glycogen lost during intense exercise such as HIIT cardio. A protein shake provides an adequate amount of carbohydrates which can replenish the expelled energy.

Let’s consider an example to demonstrate the effects of protein intake.

You’re performing a set of sprints HIIT-style, 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off. Your body has run out of glycogen and is now using fat as fuel. In other words, you have entered the fat-burning mode. That’s a good thing because we want to burn fat without breaking down all that hard-earned muscle.

However, your body will break down your muscle tissue if you don’t provide adequate proteins to your body after cardio. Proteins preserve the muscles which are used during workouts.

Consuming a protein shake after a cardio workout won’t increase your muscle mass. But, it will help you recover and protect the muscles you’ve gained so far.

  1. Performance

A study’s result in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that cyclists who drank chocolate milk after cardio workouts showed excellent results in their exercises over time. Compared to this, cyclists who drank sports drinks containing only carbs showed fewer improvements in their performances.

Chocolate milk contains both proteins and carbohydrates. And like mentioned above, it preserves muscle mass and restores glycogen storage, thus improving performance later on.

Should You Drink Protein Shakes After Or Before Cardio?

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There is no right or wrong answer to this question. You can find your answer depending on the diet you follow and your final goal. But, if you’re still unsure, here are some pros and cons of drinking a protein shake before and after a workout.

Pros Of Pre-Workout Protein Shake

  • It can help tame the hunger you may feel before a workout
  • It helps speed up the muscle-building process

Cons Of Pre-Workout Protein Shake

  • It can make you feel too full
  • May upset your stomach when doing cardio that involves bouncing or jumping

Pros Of Post Workout Protein Shake

  • It helps preserve your muscle mass and accelerate muscle recovery
  • Easier to digest after a workout as compared to a whole meal
  • Can hydrate you and make up for the fluids initially lost during the workout

Cons Of Post Workout Protein Shake

  • The wrong type of protein shake (in terms of quality and carb-to-protein ratio) can negatively affect the cardio you completed that day
  • It may be difficult to lose weight if you drink a protein-rich shake rather than one rich in carbohydrates

Can You Burn Fat Just By Drinking Protein Shakes And Doing Cardio?

Cardio is an excellent way to burn fat. Every second of cardio burns some amount of fat. Avoiding food and only drinking protein shakes can help you burn fat, but you won’t be able to keep this up for long and will need food, or else you will feel sluggish and weak.

However, if you drink protein shakes in combination with a low-calorie diet, you will successfully lose body fat. In a study conducted in 2008, the subjects who drank protein shakes with a low dietary intake lost more body fat in 12 weeks than those who consumed low or non-protein beverages.

In short, combining protein shakes with a high-calorie diet can make it harder for you to lose fat as they add to your calorie intake. But if your goal is to gain weight by putting on some muscle, you can accomplish this through the above method. The catch is, you have to eat healthy food to put on some healthy weight.


Proteins are necessary when it comes to muscle repair and performance. In addition, they are more satiating than carbohydrates. Therefore, having a protein shake before or after cardio is not bad if you take the right amount. In fact, it can help keep your stomach full for long periods.

Protein shakes before a cardio workout can elevate fat oxidation and resting energy expenditure, as stated by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. If taken after cardio, it can preserve and repair the muscles and help you regain energy and hydrate quicker.

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