We all want to make the most of our workouts. So, whether that’s using the right equipment, spending enough time at the gym or in our exercise routine, or eating properly (or all of the above!), we want to do what we can to reap the benefits of our activities.
People frequently ask us about protein consumption—more specifically, when to consume protein and how much. Those are great questions, and today we’ll explore the answers.
First, let’s examine the importance of protein in our diets.
Why is protein necessary in a diet?
Protein—one of the building blocks of our bodies—is a compound made up of molecules called amino acids. From muscles to tendons to ligaments to hair, skin, and our organs, so much of our bodies requires protein to function properly.
There are 21 amino acids, and the body can produce 12 on its own. However, the remaining nine—known as essential amino acids—must come from the foods we eat. That’s why it’s so important to eat a well-balanced diet full of protein-rich and nutrient-rich foods. By doing so, our bodies build and repair tissue more easily.
Regardless of whether you are a regular weightlifter or if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle, everyone needs protein. Those who routinely lift weights or exercise will have an increased demand for protein. But even if the sedentary person doesn’t eat enough, they’ll begin to lose muscle, which can then lead to other health problems.
Which types of protein are best?
Fitness experts teach that a protein that raises the protein synthesis rates are optimal. That would be anything that’s rich in leucine—one of the essential amino acids—because it stimulates muscle growth.
Healthline reports that the “protein source that best fits that bill is also the most popular protein supplement in the world: whey protein.” This is because whey is an excellent source of leucine, and the body rapidly digests it. As a result, it’s great for either a pre- or post-workout drink.
Performance Inspired understands this and has several options to help you fuel or refuel before or after a workout. Our Performance Whey Protein comes in four delicious flavors. We also offer a Ripped Whey and an Isolate Whey. All are high-quality whey protein powders that your body will benefit from at any time of the day.
For optimal health, a wide variety of healthy foods is important for your muscles. Eating a range of protein from both animal and plant-based foods is a good idea. Poultry, meat, fish, and dairy are excellent sources of animal protein, while foods like beans, nuts, and legumes are excellent sources of plant protein.
The “anabolic window”
Have you ever heard of something called the anabolic window? This is a time—typically thought of as the thirty minutes after a workout—when muscles easily absorb protein.
According to Healthline, “Research now suggests that this anabolic window of opportunity is much longer than 30 minutes and may not be limited to solely after exercise.” It then goes on to say that “a recent study found no significant differences in muscle strength or size between the groups. These results suggest that as long as you consume protein around your workout, it doesn’t matter whether it’s before or after training.”
That’s great news, as you can confidently decide the best times for you, your body, and your schedule to consume protein.
In fact, studies now suggest that the best predictor of muscle size and strength is your overall protein intake—how much you consume in a day.
But how much protein should a person consume each day? Healthline says that the Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, so to calculate your body’s requirement, you would multiply your weight by .36. However, this amount is only what you would need to avoid a deficiency of protein. There is no set amount necessary for optimizing health. Healthline recommends that a person who regularly does strength training may need twice the suggested amount in order to adequately support muscle growth and recovery.
Regarding when and how much you should eat, the Cleveland Clinic offers sage guidance, advising people to consume a well-balanced meal “three to four hours ahead of your workout” with a mixture of carbs and some lean protein. This will give you fuel to power through your workout and will keep you from becoming fatigued. It also suggests limiting fiber and fats, which could upset your stomach during a workout and take longer to digest.
The Cleveland Clinic advises against working out on an empty stomach, as it “could cost you what you’re trying to build—namely, muscle. It’s beneficial to have some protein, the building blocks of muscle, in your system while training if you want to grow and strengthen muscles.” If you can’t eat, a protein shake would be optimal.
Depending on the time of your workout, most people have already eaten some kind of meal with protein beforehand. However, if you work out first thing in the morning, this may not be the case. Legion Athletics says that if this is you, you should have about 20 grams of protein before the workout. A PI protein bar would be perfect.
But then what about after the workout? Most fitness experts agree that it’s important to have some protein after the workout, as it can help increase muscle over time. This is so because, after a workout, muscles are “more responsive than usual” to protein and because “protein breakdown rates begin to rise rapidly after you [finish] training, and eating protein negates this.”
The Cleveland Clinic recommends grabbing a “protein-packed snack” within an hour after the workout to help in recovery. This will help you battle muscle cramps or soreness after a workout. Experts teach that 20-40 grams of protein after a workout will suffice, and that whey protein is an especially good option. This is why PI recommends a whey protein shake after a workout.
Some people mistakenly believe that drinking a protein supplement along with consuming a high-protein diet will be harmful to their health.
Healthline says that this is not the case and that “high protein diets have been erroneously associated with kidney disease and osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weak and brittle bones.” It further states that “no evidence suggests that a high protein diet causes harm in people with healthy kidneys.”
It actually reports the opposite—that a high-protein diet has been shown to aid bone health.
Always talk to your doctor first, but there is nothing to suggest that a high-protein diet will harm an otherwise healthy person.
In summary, protein is vital to the healthy functioning of our bodies. And variety is key. So when looking to increase your protein intake, introduce a wide variety of proteins into your diet, supplement with PI products, and never skimp on healthy foods.
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