Do you need to drink a protein shake within 30 minutes of working out to maximize strength gains? Can a protein snack before working out enhance recovery? Find out what the experts say about the importance of nutrient timing to optimize performance.
If you’re confused about what — and when — you need to eat to build muscle or lose fat, you’re not alone. This article helps to clear up the confusion.
ICYDN, good nutrition and exercise go hand and hand. If you eat a nutrient dense, high quality diet, you’ll perform better in the gym and gain more lean muscle mass. However, if you’re trying to “out train” a poor diet, your results will suffer — both in terms of performance gains as well as body composition.
New research suggests that nutrient timing may be more important than what you actually eat. Having protein almost immediately after your workout will give you the results you are looking for, as the body has what’s called the “anabolic window of opportunity,” post-exercise when it’s optimal to build muscle through muscle protein synthesis, which requires adequate amino acids from protein.
So is downing a protein shake 30 minutes after your workout the answer? It might be, but studies suggest that the body might be primed for muscle protein synthesis for hours post-exercise and even eating protein pre-exercise can enhance muscle-building.
A recent study with 21 men participating in strength training looked at two different protein timing scenarios. Half of the subjects were assigned 25 grams of whey protein isolate with 1 gram of carbohydrate immediately prior to exercise, while the others consumed the same amount right after their workout.
The men completed a 10-week resistance training program with three weekly sessions. Results showed similar changes in both groups- more muscle and increased strength, regardless of whether they had a pre- or post-workout protein intake. In addition, a recent review of literature on nutrient timing also challenged this immediate post exercise anabolic window. While the debate regarding a specific “metabolic window” is debated, here are best practices that sports nutritionists recommend:
- Eat a nutrient-rich, balanced diet of primarily whole foods;
- Make sure you eat enough protein and carbohydrate to fuel your muscles, repair them post-exercise and rebuild to be stronger;
- Try eating 20 to 40 grams of protein per meal, or about .75 grams of protein per pound of body weight. (If you’re a 135-lb female, you would need around 100 grams of protein per day.)
- Time your carbs and protein before and after your workouts so that you don’t go for more than 3 to 4 hours sure pre- and post-exercise meals are not separated by more than 3-4 hours.
This article was written by CrossFit athlete, coach and registered dietitian, Hannah Padgett, RD, CSP, LD, of Florida’s Department of Health – Monroe County.