Protein Before or After a Workout: What the Studies Show

If you walk into any gym and take a look around, you’ll notice no end of musclebound bodybuilders pumping iron and training to get big and jacked. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that many of them are chugging down a protein shake. Whereas once upon a time the protein was reserved for consumption after a workout, lately you’ll see bodybuilders sipping on protein during their workouts, or before they even begin lifting weights. This has sparked the ‘protein before or after a workout’ debate and it is this which we’ll be covering in more detail in today’s article. You see, protein is essential for the growth and repair of our muscle tissue. But is it more beneficial to sip on your protein shake before train, or to chug it down in one the second you end your session? That’s what we’re going to be looking at in more detail right now. Here’s a look at when could be the best time to consume protein.

What is protein?

Protein is one of three essential macronutrients needed by the body. Out of the three macronutrients, the others being carbohydrates and fat, protein is considered by many to be the most important and the most beneficial. It plays a vital role in the growth and repair of muscle tissue, and it is vital for optimal cellular health and function. Macros provide energy in the form of calories. Each macro plays an essential role in countless physiological processes needed for us to survive. 1 gram of protein provides 4 calories. Incidentally, 1 gram of carbs also provides 4 calories, whereas 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories. Though this varies from person to person, protein makes up an average of 15% of a person’s body weight. For bodybuilders and heavily muscled individuals however, this number is much higher. The building blocks of protein molecules are amino acids. Amino acids are organic and are composed of sulphur, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Protein before or after a workout?

Now we’re going to take a look at whether it’s more beneficial to chug down a protein shake before a workout or afterwards.

Pre-workout protein

When you train, especially for muscle hypertrophy, the idea is to literally destroy your existing muscle tissue and break it down to elicit new rates of muscle growth even if you’re doing just Push ups which is a calisthenics exercises that build muscle too!

The goal is to build as much muscle as possible, and this can only be achieved if you break down existing muscle tissue so that your body replaces it with new, stronger and denser muscle fibres. In order to do this, you need protein. When you train, you’re creating microscopic rips and tears in your muscle tissues. Your body is only able to replace these via protein synthesis. Protein synthesis can only be initiated with the presence of protein. Studies have found that to get the most from your training, you need to have protein in your system before you hit the gym. This is where a pre-workout protein shake consumed around an hour before training can be so beneficial. This is so that protein synthesis can be initiated as you train. Basically, the second you start breaking your muscle tissues down, your body needs to be stepping in to begin repairing them right away. The type of protein that you consume is important. A slow-releasing protein like casein for example, will not be beneficial if you consume it a few minutes before stepping through the door of the gym. A fast-absorbing protein such as whey however, will be in your system within the hour, so whey protein is useful if time is against you. If you consumed a slow-absorbing protein several hours in advance however, there is evidence to suggest that it too would be useful. Shakes before training are more convenient than whole food because nobody wants to train on a full stomach as this will affect your performance in the gym.

Post workout protein

When people think of protein and working out, they tend to think of post-workout protein shakes. There is research which appears to prove that a post-workout protein shake consumed as soon as you finish training can be beneficial when it comes to maximizing your rates of muscle growth and recovery. This is because your muscle cells are now depleted of glycogen and protein. The sooner you can get this protein into your muscles, the sooner your body can begin rebuilding itself. A post-workout shake should always be in the form of a rapid absorbing protein, which again, is where whey protein proves to be the most beneficial. Eating a high protein meal would take the protein longer to get into the muscles, and with post-workout nutrition, speed is essential. Good quality whey protein shakes are very bio-available, so your body uses more of them. The more you use, the more your muscles will benefit. On top of that, protein shakes are convenient as well. Drinking a delicious protein shake after training is going to be much easier than eating a high protein meal.

Which is better?

In reality, both are just as beneficial as one another. For optimal results, it is recommended that you consume two shakes per day. One before training, and one after. For post-workout nutrition, a shake is always recommended, whereas you could simply eat a high protein meal an hour or two before you train, and still reap the benefits in the gym. So, it comes down to you, personal preference, and personal circumstances.


Image credit: Personal Trainer Academy 

Written by Fuzzable

This content has been created by a Fuzzable staff member. We post the latest news and features for you to read every day.

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