Do I Need Protein After Training?

Almost everyone in sports and fitness nutrition used to say (myself included!) that the meal after training was THE most important meal of the day and that you absolutely had to have protein straight after working out otherwise you could basically kiss either your fat-loss or your muscle #gainz goodbye… But, perhaps the science isn’t quite so clear cut now. 

As my good buddy Eric Helms has explained (great video here) many of the early studies involved short-term studies, typically looking at a one-off weight training event and then the application of protein or control, or some type of dosed response to differing levels of protein, in relation to how much protein was synthesized (or protein structures created). While these studies are extremely interesting, they may not actually tell us whether we may gain muscle, lose fat, or improve health over a longer period — which really is what it most important — because the results you achieve are more important to short term changes in muscle protein synthesis. In the studies that have been evaluated, there does tend to be a small effect from having protein after training, but it isn’t necessarily a ‘statistically significant’ effect. So, there is only a small benefit that’s likely to occur from having protein immediately after training. (1)

So why do I still recommend a post-workout protein drink?

Reason #1 to have protein after training: Take the small #gainz!

The effect size noted in the studies is small… but it’s still there. I figure that if there isn’t any negative effect to having protein after training (there’s not) and there could be some effect (there is), then you might as well take protein after training!

Reason #2 to have protein after training: You might be a protein hyper-responder

When we look at data from any study, there will always be some people who respond much more to any intervention. This is also true for taking protein after training and so, you might be one of those people who benefits more from taking a protein supplement after working out.

Reason #3 to have protein after training: It’s an easy way to boost your protein intake to optimal levels

Despite the claims ‘that most people get enough protein from their diet’, many people actually don’t get enough to thrive as compared to just survive. The average intake of protein is around 100 g and 70 g for males and females respectively.(2, 3) While this is higher than the recommended daily intake of 0.8 g/kg/day, it is below the recommended levels for both performance and for offsetting age-related muscle loss. Analysis of United States eating patterns has suggested that people should actually be aware of eating enough protein and certainly not reducing protein intake, especially as we age.(4)

So, if you want to be awesome, it’s likely that you aren’t eating enough protein and while there’s no reason that you can’t get it from diet, many people still fail to consistently take in enough protein to optimize lean muscle, fat loss, satiety and mood, even when trying to do so. That’s because diets become very habitual. If the rest of your diet is on-point and you’re struggling to get in enough protein, we have found that simply adding in a protein shake after training is a great way to boost your levels overall and you might get some additional benefits, too.  

How much:

Try taking just under ¼ gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight in a shake or smoothie after working out. So, if you weigh 150 lb take 30-35 g of protein (around 3 scoops of Clean Lean Protein). Use this as a chance to take in some extra nutrients too! Add berries, vegetables, nut butter or another healthy fat to that smoothie (like MCT, coconut oil, olive oil, flax oil etc.) and have a nutrient-dense meal in a glass.

References

  1. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10(1):5.
  2. University of Otago and Ministry of Health. A Focus on Nutrition: Key findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. Wellington; 2011.
  3. Moshfegh A, Goldman J, Cleveland L. What we eat in America, NHANES 2001-2002: usual nutrient intakes from food compared to dietary reference intakes. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2005;9.
  4. Fulgoni VL. Current protein intake in America: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003–2004. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87(5):1554S-7S.

This article written by

Cliff Harvey – ND, Dip.Fit, HbT, Adv.Psych-K, naturopath, strength coach, author

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