• Claire Smith

All About Protein - A Guide To Nutrition

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

Protein


Should you have protein before or after your workout?


This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get and there are many different articles out there that will tell you lots of different things. Some believe it is better to drink a protein shake before a workout, whereas others would argue that after a workout is ideal. There is mixed research around whether protein intake around the time of your workout is important.

Some research has questioned whether consuming protein around your workout is even necessary. A few studies suggest it’s beneficial, while other research shows no effect.

These opposing results led researchers to analyze the findings of 23 studies on the effects of consuming protein around exercise. They found that total protein intake was the strongest predictor of muscle strength and size, regardless of whether people consumed it close to their exercise or not. Therefore, how much protein you consume per day is likely more important than when you consume it for gaining muscle size and strength.



Do people who exercise need more protein?


The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. If you are regularly exercising this means the daily allowance needs to be increased to support muscle recovery and growth. Some research has even suggested people who regularly strength-train should double up on their protein intake. To optimize your results, spread this amount over three to four meals that are consumed every three to four hours. A protein shake is a good option between meals, either as a snack or around your workout. They typically contain 25–30 grams of protein per scoop.


Does the “Anabolic Window” Matter?


Many people believe drinking a protein shake within 30 minutes of exercise will maximize their results in the gym. This 30-minute window, commonly known as the “anabolic window,” is a short period of time in which your muscles are like a sponge for protein. The thought is that if you consume protein outside of the anabolic window, your body won’t effectively utilize it or build muscle. Research now suggests that this anabolic window of opportunity is much longer than 30 minutes and may not be limited to after exercise. In fact, it may not matter if you drink a protein shake before or after your workout in terms of optimizing muscle repair and growth.


Is a high protein diet a safe and healthy diet?


Healthy people can safely drink protein shakes. That said, shakes are not designed to replace meals. It’s best to use them between meals and, if you prefer, around your workouts. Many people fear that taking protein supplements in combination with a high-protein diet can harm their health. That’s because high-protein diets have been erroneously associated with kidney disease and osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weak and brittle bones. However, there is no evidence to suggest that a high-protein diet causes harm in people with healthy kidneys. Even those who consistently consume high-protein diets, such as weightlifters, have healthy kidneys. On the contrary, a high-protein diet is associated with improved bone health. This may be because protein increases bone mineral density and reduces the risk of bone fractures, especially when combined with strength training. Therefore, unless your doctor or registered dietitian instructs you to limit your protein intake due to a medical condition, there is no need to fear a high-protein diet.


Protein plays an important role in repairing and rebuilding your muscles after exercise, and many people use protein shakes after their workouts to aid this process. However, research suggests it doesn’t matter whether you drink a protein shake before or after your workout. Interestingly, your total daily protein intake is what matters most. While protein shakes around workouts and between meals are helpful, make sure you’re getting enough throughout the day. Both foods and supplements can help you meet your goals. For healthy people, there are little or no health risks associated with using protein shakes while following a high-protein diet. In fact, consuming more protein than the current recommended daily allowance has many health benefits.

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Dronfield, United Kingdom