Should you take a protein shake before or after your workout?

Protein is necessary for repair and muscle growth.

For this reason, many people consume protein supplements in the form of shakes together with their workouts.

However, the optimal time to take a protein shake is a hotly debated topic.

Some believe that it is better to take a protein shake before a workout, while others argue that after a workout it is ideal.

This article explains if it is better to take a protein shake before or after your workout.

People who exercise need more protein

Protein shake before or after training

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for proteins is 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 g / kg) of body weight (1).

The RDA is the estimated amount of a nutrient that a person needs to avoid a deficiency. It does not specify the amount needed to optimize body composition or health (2).

For proteins, it is clear that the recommended daily dose is too low to support recovery and muscle growth (3, 4, 5, 6).

In fact, research suggests that people who routinely train hard may need twice as much RDA, or 0.72 grams per pound (1.6 g / kg), to support muscle recovery and growth (3, 7). .

For a person who weighs 150 pounds (68 kg), this equals 109 grams of protein per day.

To optimize your results, distribute this amount in three or four meals that are consumed every three or four hours (8, 9).

A protein shake is a good choice between meals, either as a snack or around your workout. They usually contain 25-30 grams of protein per tablespoon.

Summary People who exercise regularly need more protein to support recovery and muscle growth. Consume your protein at equally spaced times throughout the day.

Does the "anabolic window" matter?

Many people believe that taking a protein shake within 30 minutes of exercise will maximize your results in the gym.

This 30-minute window, commonly known as the "anabolic window," is a short period of time in which the muscles are like a sponge for the protein.

The idea is that if you consume proteins outside the anabolic window, your body will not use it effectively or develop muscle (10).

The research now suggests that this window of anabolic opportunity is much longer than 30 minutes and can not be limited to after exercise (11).

In fact, it may not matter if you take a protein shake before or after your workout to optimize muscle repair and growth.

Summary Previously it was believed that proteins had to be consumed within 30 minutes after a workout for your body to use them. Recent research suggests that this may not be the case.

Protein shake before and after training

To date, only one study has compared the effects of protein consumption before or after a training in strength and muscle size.

The researchers divided 21 men into two groups, both receiving a protein shake that contained 25 grams of protein. One group received it immediately before their training, while the other group received it immediately after (12).

All completed a full-body workout three times a week for 10 weeks.

Interestingly, the study found no significant differences in muscle strength or size between groups. These results suggest that whenever you consume protein around your workout, it does not matter if it is before or after training.

Therefore, you can choose the time you prefer or the one that suits you best.

Summary If you take a protein shake before or after your workout, it may not affect the strength or size of your muscles.

Daily protein intake may be more important

Research on whether protein intake around your workouts is important to maximize gains is mixed.

Some research has questioned whether protein consumption around their training is even necessary (11, 13).

Some studies suggest that it is beneficial, while other investigations show no effect (14, 15, 16, 17).

These opposite results led researchers to analyze the findings of 23 studies on the effects of protein consumption around exercise (18).

They found that total protein intake was the strongest predictor of muscle strength and size, regardless of whether people consumed it near their exercise or not.

Therefore, the amount of protein you consume per day is probably more important than when you consume it to gain strength and muscle size.

Summary The total amount of protein you consume each day is more important for muscle growth and strength than when you ingest it.

How to meet your protein goal

Both animal and vegetable foods contain protein and can help you achieve your daily protein goal.

Meat, poultry, dairy products and fish are animal sources of high quality protein. Meanwhile, nuts, beans, legumes and soybeans are good sources of vegetable protein.

The research suggests that the protein of animal origin is superior to the protein of vegetable origin to build muscle, but it is beneficial to consume a combination of both (19, 20, 21, 22).

Protein shakes can also be a convenient way to increase your protein intake, especially when you can not get enough through food alone.

The most common types of protein powder on the market include:

  • Whey protein: Whey protein is a protein in milk that the body absorbs quickly, so it is useful before or after your workout. It also contains bioactive proteins that can offer other health benefits (23).

  • Casein protein: Casein is the other protein in milk that is digested much more slowly than whey, making it ideal during periods of fasting such as sleep. In addition, some brands of casein protein offer up to 60% of your recommended daily dose of calcium per tablespoon.

  • Egg protein: The egg protein powders are made with pure egg white protein. They are digested at an average rate and are one of the most expensive protein supplements on the market.

  • Soy protein: Soy protein is one of the few vegetable proteins that contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein source for vegetarians.

  • Rice and pea protein: The proteins of rice and peas do not contain all the essential amino acids, but their combination makes them a complete protein. They are low allergens, which makes them attractive for people with allergies to eggs, dairy products or soy.

Summary Both animal and vegetable products are good sources of dietary protein. Protein shakes can also help you achieve your daily target protein.

Diets rich in protein are safe for most people

Healthy people can safely take protein shakes (24).

That said, smoothies are not designed to replace meals. It is best to use them between meals and, if you prefer, around your workouts.

Many people fear that taking protein supplements in combination with a high-protein diet can harm their health.

This is because high-protein diets are mistakenly associated with kidney disease and osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weak and fragile bones.

However, there is no evidence to suggest that a high protein diet causes harm in people with healthy kidneys (25, 26, 27, 28).

Even those who consistently consume high-protein diets, such as weightlifters, have healthy kidneys (29, 30, 31).

In contrast, a diet high in protein is associated with better bone health. This may be because the protein increases bone mineral density and reduces the risk of bone fractures, especially when combined with strength training (32, 33, 34, 35).

Therefore, unless your doctor or registered dietitian tells you to limit your protein intake due to a medical condition, there is no need to fear a high protein diet.

Summary You can use protein shakes between meals to increase your protein intake. Most healthy people can safely follow a high protein diet.

The bottom line

Protein plays an important role in the repair and rebuilding of your muscles after exercise, and many people use protein shakes after their workouts to help this process.

However, research suggests that it does not matter if you take a protein shake before or after your workout. Interestingly, your total daily protein intake is what matters most.

While protein shakes around workouts and between meals are useful, make sure you consume enough throughout the day. Both food and supplements can help you achieve your goals.

For healthy people, there is little or no health risk associated with the use of protein shakes while following a high protein diet.

In fact, consuming more protein than the recommended daily dose has many health benefits.

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