The optimal time to take a protein supplement is a hot debate. First, it’s good to understand why proteins are so important.
Proteins, which are made of smaller units called amino acids, are one of the most essential building blocks for our body to function properly. Proteins help repair and maintain tissues, help build and grow our muscles, but also are necessary for healthy bones, skin, nails and hair. And our body also uses protein for enzyme and hormone production among many other body chemicals. So now that we have established the importance of consuming sufficient protein, what is the best time to take them before or after exercising?
Did you know that when you exercise regularly, you need more protein? This is because when we are exercising we are tearing and wearing down muscle fibres. This should be repaired and thus besides recovery time, we thus need to nourish our body with more proteins so we can repair our tissues.
Research suggests that those who regularly do strength and or body resistance exercises may require double the RDA recommended amount which is about 0.72 grams per pound (1.6 g/kg) in order to support muscle repair and recovery.* For someone weighing 65kg (about 143 pounds), this means about 104 grams of protein per day. Bare in mind that a boneless breast of 100 grams of chicken contains about 31 grams of protein.
It’s typically recommended to spread your protein amount over the day, so don’t get your entire daily protein amount with one meal. But is there something as an optimal protein window, which many gym enthusiasts often talk about? This is also referred to as the post exercise “anabolic window”. The common belief was that the anabolic window is a 30 minute window, in which our body functions as a sponge to absorb protein. And it is based on the idea that our body doesn’t optimally absorb protein outside of this window and if taken within this window are body can produce significant improvements in body composition, thus very much desired to tone and shape our figure.
New evidence however suggests that the anabolic window is in fact much greater than the 30 minutes thought of and is not limited to just 30 minutes after your workout. It’s surely true that an intense resistance training workout results in the depletion of a significant proportion of stored glycogen (sugars) and amino acids (proteins) in addition to the wearing of muscle fibres. However you don’t need to worry about getting a protein shake immediately after your workout.
You in fact might as well drink it before your workout. As long as you take enough protein within two hours of your workout, you should typically be fine. In our next article, I’ll share with you some protein recipes, so stay tuned.