Protein Before or After Your Workout?
Of all the things needed for the gym — earbuds, water bottles, and those fresh new cross-trainers — protein is one of the most controversial. There's a never-ending debate about which type of protein is the 'best', from plant-based proteins like peas and beans to their dairy counterparts like whey and casein. But no matter which protein you go with based on your dietary needs and goals, there's another huge debate lurking on the sidelines; should you get your protein fix before or after your workout?
The Benefits of Protein For Your Workouts
To answer this question, we have to first understand why protein is so beneficial to the workout process. It can get a bit in the weeds so stay with us as we try to explain it in the simplest way possible.
Simply put, proteins help repair the strained muscle tissues in your body and promote muscle recovery and growth. When working out, especially with anabolic exercises, your body is tearing down these tissues and subsequently repairing itself. Adding protein to this mix helps to essentially build back the tissues bigger and better than before during a process called muscle protein synthesis. The thought behind consuming protein post-workout comes from a concept in bodybuilding and strength training called the anabolic window.
What Is the Anabolic Window?
The theory of the anabolic windows states that we should consume a recovery meal or other form of protein no more than 30 minutes after our workout is complete.
Anabolism, the process in which small molecules turn into bigger and more complex molecules, is most prominent as soon as we're done working out. Once the workout is complete, especially after weight training, our bodies are in an anabolic state.
This means that the muscles we've damaged during the workout begin to be repaired since the active state of damaging them is no longer happening.
In contrast, our bodies are in a catabolic state prior to working out. Catabolism, or the state of being catabolic, simply means that our bodies are breaking down the food we've eaten into energy.
The anabolic window theory suggests that there's a 30-minute period immediately after a workout is complete for our bodies to absorb that protein in order to maximize potential muscle recovery and gains. Because protein is used to build muscle and our bodies are in repair mode immediately after a workout, the thought is that consuming it during our muscle repair phase will have extraordinary effects.
Is Protein Best Before or After My Workout?
Now that we know what the anabolic window is, the question of whether to take protein before or after a workout still remains. The answer is — it depends. There have been several studies that say the effect of protein consumption both pre and post-workout results in similar effects. Krissy Kendall, Ph.D., a science editor for BodyBuilding.com, says that consuming as few as 20 grams of protein prior to working out can elevate the delivery of amino acids to your muscles for two to three hours. She also says that while it's important to fuel your body post-workout, not eating immediately after your last set shouldn't cause unrealized gains provided you consumed a pre-workout protein.
Kendall does say that a post-workout protein is crucial if it's been four or more hours since your last meal prior to starting a workout to help reverse your body's catabolic state.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
It's currently recommended to get a minimum of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight according to Gainful. This is just a minimum, however. It should be noted that in order to make more pronounced muscle gains you should consume up to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. An adult male weight 185 pounds should consume about 148 grams of protein per day. While it is possible to get such a high amount of protein from natural foods like meat or various plants, a lot of people supplement their protein consumption with high-protein snacks like THE BOSS! COOKIE™ or protein shakes.
Choosing the Right Protein For Your Workouts
Choosing to get your protein right before or immediately after your workout should ultimately result in the same effect on muscle growth. This is a huge win for those of us who might work out earlier in the mornings or during our lunch breaks.
A protein shake is always a quick and easy solution since it has a very quick prep time and can be prepared in advance. Snacking on nuts, chickpeas, or even a cookie can also help you meet your protein consumption goals especially on the go.
The most important thing is to make sure your body has the fuel that it needs in order to perform and recover at its best.