Protein Before or After a Workout: What Studies Show
June 9, 2016
There’s no disputing the fact that protein is necessary for healthy muscle development. What people often disagree on is whether protein before or after a workout is most effective. Here are some things you should know that will help you decide which time is best for you.
Benefits of Taking Before
The levels of insulin, amino acids, and glucose in your body fall off anywhere from one to three hours after eating. During this time, your muscles are in an absorptive state, and are more receptive to receiving protein. As such, consuming a protein-rich meal or enjoying a protein shake one to two hours before a workout can provide you with the energy you need, ensuring that muscle tissue is not broken down for fuel. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise noted that consuming whey protein before a workout increases the amount of calories you burn over the next 24 hours.
Results of Taking Afterwards
Many trainers encourage drinking a protein shake within an hour or so after a workout to fuel protein synthesis. According to a study performed by McMaster University, muscle protein synthesis can actually continue for 24 to 48 hours after a workout. Researchers determined that the effects were higher immediately after exercising, and diminished over time. As such, you do not necessarily have to be concerned with consuming protein immediately afterwards, although waiting too long might nonetheless negate some of the benefits.
Total Protein Intake Important
While consuming protein before or after a workout can be helpful, what’s most important is your total protein intake. Consuming protein shakes before or after your routine will provide you with little benefits if your other nutritional needs are not met. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which equates to .36 grams per pound. This amount is for sedentary people, so you should increase the amount you take somewhat if your goal is bodybuilding. You can get a more accurate idea of your needs by using our macro calculator.
Spacing Protein Intake
A study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reports that consuming 20 grams of protein every three hours is more effective than eating 10 grams of protein eight times each day. Put in other terms, moderate amounts of protein three or four times each day can stimulate protein synthesis more effectively than consuming small amounts several times daily. The best way to space your protein intake is to ensure all your meals are nutritionally well rounded, containing at least one source of lean protein along with plenty of leafy green vegetables and whole grains.
Deciding whether protein before or after your workout is best will require you to consider a number of things. Keep in mind that protein supplements are not a substitute for healthy meals, so you should make every effort to eat a balanced diet that includes as few fried or processed foods as possible. So long as you do, you should notice tremendous results from taking protein shakes, regardless of when you consume them.