When working on your fitness goals, the most important thing to do is to make sure that you are putting in all the right effort. You don’t want to do anything that would sabotage all the efforts you have put in.
In this article, we will look at one of the most important things that would affect your fitness goals – whether you should be eating protein before or after your workouts.
Are you doing it right when you take your protein shake before the workout? Or would the effects of the protein shake better effects after the workout?
Generally, protein is a crucial macronutrient when it comes to muscle growth and repair. To gain these benefits, you need to eat protein, regardless of the time,
What this means is that whether you eat a protein-rich meal or bar before or after the workout, the benefits will still be there. You also need to make sure that the food or snack you eat before or after the workout is well-balanced, with enough macronutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
That said;let us look back at the timings and when you would enjoy the benefits of a high-protein meal.
Proteins – Before or After Workouts?
To determine whether you need to take your proteins before or after your workouts, we need to take into consideration the basics.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for proteins is 0.36g/ pound of your body weight. With the RDA being the estimated total amount of nutrients that a person needs to avoid any deficiencies, you also need to keep in mind that the RDA number isn’t specific to or doesn’t apply to the exact amount of proteins that you need to optimize your body’s health or composition.
Often, the recommended protein content is too low to ensure muscle support, growth, and recovery. To back this, there is significant research which suggests that if you work out routinely, especially if you strength train, you will need as much as double the RDA levels. This would mean that you need as much as 0.72g/ pound per your body weight for maximum muscle support, growth, and recovery. So, if you weigh 150lbs (say 68kgs), you’d need 109g protein each day.
Note that for the most optimized results, you’d need to spread the recommended amount of protein over 3 or 4 meals consumed every 3 or 4 days.
To keep up with these numbers, you would need to bulk up your diet with a protein shake, either as a snack between meals or before the workout. The best protein shake will have between 25 and 30 grams of protein.
What about the anabolic window?
Everything you need to know about the anabolic window and its importance
If you have been on the fitness journey for some time, you’ve come across the term Anabolic Window. If you haven’t, we’ll learn all about it right here.
The anabolic window, also called the 30-minute window, refers to the short period of time within which your muscles are able to absorb proteins like a sponge.
This window is the reason why most people believe that drinking protein shakes within 30 minutes of working out will result in maximized benefits out in the gym.
With this thinking and model, it’s believed that consuming protein outside the anabolic window would mean that the body wouldn’t utilize protein effectively or even build muscle.
But studies now show that that the anabolic window or this window of opportunity for protein absorption by the muscles is longer than 30 minutes, and it isn’t limited to a specific timeframe before or after exercising.
The studies further show that it doesn’t really matter what time you drink your protein shake or a protein bar. You could drink the protein shake before or after workouts, for the optimization of your body’s muscle growth and repair.
The best time for protein shakes?
In one study, the only study which has successfully and conclusively researched whether to consume proteins before or after workouts, it was discovered that there aren’t any significant differences in muscle mass and muscle strength between individuals who received the protein shakes before or after the workouts.
The results indicate that as long as you take proteins around the workout, the effects of the protein on the body aren’t affected by the time the protein shake is consumed.
All you need to do is to determine the time that works best for you and stick to it. If you cannot stomach proteins before a workout, you can have your shake after your workout.
It has been noted that the biggest factor when it comes to proteins taken before or after workouts is whether you are taking enough protein for the muscles to grow and gain strength or not.
At the same time, you need to know that the amount of protein that you take in each day will affect the lean muscle gains that you make or don’t.
You also need to keep in mind that what you eat or don’t eat before or after your workout should depend on your goals, but you also need to listen to your body.
What to eat before your workout
For the best effects and for you to reach your fitness goals, you need to go by the rule – Real Food First.
What this means is that you need to eat a snack before your workout, and the snack must have protein, carbs, and little healthy fats.
You should steer clear of foods or snacks that would cause a spike in your blood sugar levels or even a sugar crash during your workout—for example, bananas.
The other rule you need to remember is that you need to stop eating an hour into your workout unless you have an iron-clad stomach.
Some of the healthy food and snack options you could enjoy before your workout include:
- A banana with some nut butter
- A slice of whole-grain toast spread with peanut butter
- Cottage or Greek cheese with sliced almonds and berries
- Veggies in hummus
- Cheese and a fruit
What to eat after your workout
When looking for the best snack or protein shake to take after your workouts, one of the important considerations you need to keep in mind is that after your workout, you will need to eat foods/ snacks that will enhance muscle repair (protein), as well as carbohydrates that will replenish your muscle’s glycogen stores.
Eating carbs after your workout is important, and it won’t sabotage your efforts because your body actually needs the carbs after the workout. Your body will readily use the carbs to replenish the carbs (glycogen) that were stored in the muscles.
The intake of carbs after your workout is actually a good move in your weight loss journey. But you need to make sure that you are taking in the best carbohydrates, which is why it is a good idea to think of starchy veggies and whole grains, plus a source of lean protein.
For the protein you take after your workout, you need to opt for animal protein because animal protein is more bioavailable to the body than plant proteins.
The animal protein is also more beneficial because it has a higher amino acid profile, and the amino acids will be absorbed readily, allowing you to build and retain more muscle mass, fast.
But be careful to adjust your snack or meal portions depending on the time of day and how hungry you are.
Some of the best after-workout foods and proteins include:
- Cottage cheese and sweet potatoes
- Turkey and whole grain bread
- Protein shakes made of pea or whey proteins.
- Rotisserie chicken, a quinoa bowl, plus some greens
- A fruit and hard-boiled eggs
There is no specific time that you should take protein, either before or after the workout, and the anabolic 30-minute window doesn’t really matter.
Your body is also quite fluid, which means that if you had breakfast or lunch early on in the day, you would pretty much have enough gas in your tank.
When it comes to changes in muscle thickness, muscle strength, and the changes in your body’s composition, the time you take your proteins doesn’t matter.
You only need to make sure that you eat some carbs and proteins to hit your muscle, fitness, and weight loss goals. Make sure that the meal you have after your workout allows you to function at your best after your workout, and you won’t have to worry about eating within a specific window.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your body. We have been made to believe that we have to eat before or after workouts, but the truth is that if you are not hungry or don’t feel like eating before or after your workout, you shouldn’t.
Eat when you are ready, keep your portions moderate, and make sure that all your meals are well-balanced.
But don’t starve yourself. Eating less than your body needs before your workout would make your nauseated, dizzy, lethargic, or lightheaded. And when any of these happen, your risk of getting injured increases, and it might also affect your overall performance while reducing your muscle gains.
You also need to hydrate with water before/ during/ and after your workout. Your pre and post-workout snacks much have carbs and proteins, and you should increase your protein content if you are athletic.