Should You Have Protein Before or After Your Workout?

Post-workout protein is a staple of any decent workout nutrition plan, right? You’re told that protein intake after a workout is necessary to help repair your hard worked muscles and encourage them to increase. While this is true, recent research has found that ingesting protein before your workout may be even more beneficial. With conflicting information, many are stuck with the question: should you have protein before or after your workout? Read on to learn what the experts are saying.

Benefits of pre-workout protein

Consuming protein before a training session has been proposed to increase protein synthesis, prevent fatigue during a workout, and burn more calories.

As reported on bodybuilding.com, the role of pre-workout protein is to “prime the pump”, or in other words it starts protein synthesis during, rather than after, your training session. This is accomplished by increasing amino acid delivery to, and uptake by, muscles during training. A 2001 study published in the American Journal of Physiology confirmed this to be true by observing the effects in two trials: in one trial the participants consumed an amino acid solution immediately before exercise and in the second trial the participants consumed the same solution immediately after exercise. The study was designed to measure the response of muscle protein metabolism to the amino acid solution and if the response differed based on the timing of consumption.

Results from this study demonstrated that ingestion of amino acids changed net muscle protein balance from negative values to positive net uptake in both trials. However, the total response to the consumption of amino acids immediately before exercise was greater than the response when amino acids were consumed immediately after exercise.

Furthermore, it appears that the change from a catabolic state in the muscle to an anabolic state was primarily due to an increase in muscle protein synthesis. Consuming amino acids at a time when blood flow is increased appears to offer the maximum stimulation of muscle protein synthesis by increasing amino acid delivery to the muscle and thus amino acid availability. The researchers concluded that the ingestion of a relatively small amount of essential amino acids, combined with carbohydrates, before a workout is superior to post-workout consumption.

BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, are typically known as a post-workout supplement, but there are several benefits of taking them before a workout, too. Since BCAA supplements require no digestion, they bypass the liver and go right into the bloodstream to then be taken up by muscles. A pre-workout dose of BCAAs can help to prevent fatigue during your workout by maintaining cellular energy levels. A paper from the Huntington College of Health Sciences claims that BCAA supplements can provide between a 3 and 18 percent increase in energy, depending on the length and intensity of your workout.

Another benefit you’ll gain from pre-workout protein is the additional calorie burning effects. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise found that one scoop of whey protein prior to working out increased calorie burning over the subsequent 24 hours. The exact cause of this increase in calorie burning is unknown, but it may be due to the added metabolic effects of increasing protein and modifying substrates (energy sources) used during exercise.

Benefits of post-workout protein

Consuming protein after your workout has been traditionally known to help with muscle recovery and to prevent muscle catabolism.

An article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition cites a study by Tipton et al, which reported that acute ingestion of whey protein after exercise demonstrated increases in muscle protein net balance, thus resulting in net muscle protein synthesis.

Similar to the benefits you’ll see from pre-workout protein, BCAAs can help to maximize your post workout recovery. According to Isabel Smith, RD, “BCAAs can help promote muscle growth and repair and reduce muscle soreness after exercise.” This is important because exercise causes the breakdown and oxidation of BCAAs, putting the body into a state of catabolic crisis. Your muscle is breaking down and the more lean it is, the more likely it is to lose mass, since your body is preferentially preserving whatever fat stores it can find. Providing BCAAs to the muscles you are training prior to your workout session will prevent the need for your body to catabolize the working muscle itself. Whether you take them alone or as part of a complete protein, BCAAs inhibit muscle breakdown, so net protein synthesis is elevated even higher!

In an article for Men’s Fitness, Nate Miyaki, nutrition specialist and the author of the Intermittent Feast, confirms the benefits of post-workout protein by saying, “The primary goal post-workout should be to provide your body with an immediate fuel source to prevent it from breaking down muscle tissue for energy.” For this reason, pairing your protein with a source of carbs or fiber, like the 5 grams of fiber in Performance Whey, is best. The fiber and carbs are going to spare your body from consuming its own muscle for energy and the protein will help repair your hard worked muscle and encourage it to increase. Performance Whey is particularly well suited to help you hit your post-workout protein needs. Mixing up a delicious protein shake post-sweat session can help enhance the effects of your hard work as well as maximize your recovery.

The final verdict

Using a protein supplement to boost your nutrition is a no brainer. But should you have protein before or after your workout?

It’s clear that there are benefits of consuming protein both before and after a workout, and both sides can be supported with evidence-based research. Most respected fitness professionals agree that you should eat protein after you work out, yet new research highlights that pre-workout protein may be even more beneficial. Our final verdict: why not both?

Once you’ve determined your daily protein needs based on your body composition and fitness goals, why not schedule your protein around your workouts so that you can reap the benefits of both pre and post-workout protein? For example, a pre-workout supplement that is formulated with amino acids (along with the other good stuff, like healthy carbs, caffeine, and creatine) can boost performance during your training and jumpstart the protein synthesis process. Additionally, a post-workout protein shake or BCAA supplement can help you to recover better and faster.

As far as protein intake goes, eating enough every day is what matters most for gaining the muscle and strength you want. No matter what your nutrition demands, Performance Inspired products have you covered. Now all you need to do is choose a delicious flavor and get ready to see the best results you ever thought possible.

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2 thoughts on “Should You Have Protein Before or After Your Workout?”

  1. Good article. Well written. Thanks for the information………….. always wondered which was better, protein consumption before or after a workout. I’m typically a before workout protein consumer because as a general rule I do not feel hungry or feel like consuming anything other than water after a workout session.

  2. Protein = Protein
    Whether that be in shake form or from a whole food source.
    Timing isn’t as important as hitting your macros and calorie numbers.
    If you go off the popular 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight protein shakes can help you hit that number.

    However, as long as you are hitting your protein goal daily timing is almost irrelevant. Have a protein shake whenever is most convenient.
    Thanks for sharing the article.

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