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Protein Before or After Workout

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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 1/29/2020

Should You Take Your Protein Before or After Your Workout?

protein before or after workout for muscle gain

Protein timing is a topic that always spurs debate among bodybuilders and other strength athletes. Some swear that you have to take in protein before your workout to get, while others insist it’s the post-workout window when you need protein the most. Still others will tell you that, to get the best results, you should be eating protein during both critical periods.

So what’s the real story? Will you make the best gains taking protein before or after your workout, or is a different approach altogether the way to go?

In order to uncover the truth about protein timing, we first need to make sure we understand the concept.

The Anabolic Window

The whole idea of nutrient timing, and protein timing in particular, revolves around the concept of the so-called “Anabolic Window.”

If you’ve been around the iron game for any length of time, you might know that the anabolic window is a golden period of time that opens right around the beginning of your workout and extends for about an hour after you finish training.

The theory is that you begin to tear down muscles and deplete their glycogen levels as soon as you start pumping, and you need to supply replacement energy and amino acids for repair. What’s more, after training, your muscles are really depleted, and their ability to absorb nutrients is better than at any other time of the day.

By supplying carbs and protein during this “window,” then, you can jump-start the recovery process and achieve better results overall.

At least, that’s what gym lore says.

What Does Science Say About Protein Timing?

A 2012 study from researchers at Northern Illinois University reviewed available scientific literature to determine if any trends could be observed in how protein type AND timing affect overall workout results.

While the scientists noted some benefit after subjects took individual amino acids before working out, they did not observe the same effect when the trainees consumed whole proteins. On the other hand, the researchers did find that muscle synthesis increases for a period of about three hours after consuming proteins, and that the anabolic action peaks around an hour after eating.

That suggests there may be some advantage to consuming protein soon after training to help push your muscle-building into gear.

A subsequent (2013) literature review conducted by Brad Schoenfeld and his colleagues focused specifically on protein timing and its ability to produce better training results — or not.

Their results suggest that, while some studies DO show a positive correlation between protein intake close to a workout and muscle growth, those same studies also feature a large increase in overall protein consumption. In fact, the researchers found a very strong relationship between eating lots of protein and gaining muscle and strength.

What’s more, the aggregate results of the studies analyzed suggest that heavy protein intake contributes to muscle growth regardless of when it is eaten in relation to the workout. As a consequence, the researchers suggest getting in plenty of protein but not worrying too much about hitting the “anabolic window.”

A Practical Application

So science tells us that there may be a slight advantage to eating protein around the time of your workout, at least for some, but available studies do not suggest dramatic effects either way.

For most lifters, the best bet will be to just make sure you’re getting adequate protein on a daily basis, and to eat at regular intervals. As a practical matter, many trainers don’t perform well after eating a full meal, so any pre-workout nutrition should be fairly light and eaten far enough in advance to clear your stomach.

Likewise, most of us will be hungry after a hard training session anyway, so eating in the hour or so after our workouts makes sense.

The most important thing when it comes to protein is to make sure that you eat enough, on a consistent basis, to support your training and any muscle growth you were able to stimulate.

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