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Protein Shakes- Before Or After Exercise? Does It Matter?

It is commonly believed that protein shakes are best taken immediately after exercise or during what’s called the “anabolic window” which is within 30 minutes of a workout. During this window it’s believed your muscles are like a sponge, craving protein. The thought is that consuming protein outside of the anabolic window won’t allow your body to utilize it or effectively build muscle.

Research is indicating this commonly held belief may be wrong. A recent study has demonstrated that from a muscle building standpoint, it doesn’t matter if you consume protein before or after your workout.

A study conducted in 2017 involving 59 men looked at the impact of both pre- and post-resistance training supplementation of protein to see what, if any, difference was achieved in muscle mass. Only 21 men completed the study within the parameters but the results were statistically meaningful indicating that whether you take protein during the anabolic window or in advance of a workout, there was no significant difference on muscle recovery or mass.

Given that the PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTATION group did not consume protein for at least 3 hours post-workout, these findings refute the contention that a narrow post-exercise anabolic window of opportunity exists to maximize the muscular response and instead lends support to the theory that the interval for protein intake may be as wide as several hours or perhaps more after a training bout depending on when the pre-workout meal was consumed.

Taking the research one step further, some studies questioned whether consuming protein around your workout is even necessary at all.

Analyzing the findings of 23 studies on the effects of consuming protein around exercise, researchers found that TOTAL protein intake was the strongest predictor of muscle strength and size, REGARDLESS of whether people consumed it close to their exercise or not.

Protein shakes can be a convenient way to increase your protein intake, especially when you cannot get enough through food alone. The growing trend toward less red meat consumption has made vegetable protein sources much more important to the population’s ability to consume sufficient protein.

While the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, this number is the estimated amount of protein a person needs to avoid a deficiency. It doesn’t specify the amount needed to optimize body composition or health.

In fact, research suggests that people who routinely strength train may need to double the RDA, or 0.72 grams per pound, to support muscle recovery and growth. A person weighing 150 pounds would therefore need to consume 108 grams of protein per day for optimal muscle recovery and growth.

A protein shake is a good option between meals, either as a snack or around your workout. They typically contain 25–30 grams of protein per scoop.

Research suggests that animal-based protein is superior to plant-based protein for building muscle, but it’s beneficial to consume a combination of both.

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