NUTRITION POST-WORKOUT: TO SHAKE OR NOT TO SHAKE?
If “Survival of the fittest” is Jungle law, ‘drink your protein shake as soon as you finish your workout’ is gym law – but does it really help?
Out of the three macro-nutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate), protein plays an important role in promoting physiological adaptation to, and recovery from exercise. When, and how much protein should be consumed is a common question both in those new to gym and those looking to maximise their results.
During a normal bout of exercise, the body operates in a catabolic state – meaning it is ‘breaking down’ fuel like carbohydrate, fat, and protein to use for energy. Even if you're not burning off much muscle protein for energy (usually only around 10% of energy at most comes from protein) - BUT muscle damage does result from exercise. Weights, HIIT training, and even cardio sessions, can all contribute to micro-damage to your muscles, and this is where consuming protein is beneficial.
Post-exercise the body shifts into an anabolic state, where it builds back up the fuel reserves that were depleted from exercise and repairs micro-damage to muscles (muscle protein synthesis). Depending on how we train, this process of stressing and then repairing and rebuilding muscles is how we adapt to carry more lean muscle mass, become stronger, faster, more toned, or more powerful!
Studies have shown approximately 20 grams of protein taken 3 to 5 times per day yields the best protein synthesis after resistance training, with one of these doses consumed immediately post-exercise (see the image below).
Breaking protein intake into regular amounts during the day has been shown to be more effective than one to two large servings, and better than taking many smaller servings (see bottom left image). Consuming 40 grams of protein at one time compared to 20 grams of protein also showed little additional benefit in the rate of muscle protein synthesis (see bottom right image).
Exact protein requirements can vary depending on individual needs or circumstances, but here are some good general recommendations for improving lean body mass:
- Spread protein intake out during the day with 3 to 5 servings of 20 to 30 grams per serving
- Consume 1.2 grams to 1.6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (for example if you weigh 70kg that is 84g to 112g of protein)
- Consume protein sources high in essential amino acids, these include most proteins from animal sources such as eggs, beef, fish, chicken and whey protein
- Consume protein as soon as reasonably possible after a workout to optimise muscle protein synthesis
- Three scoops is probably too many :)
If training correctly, adding extra protein, and therefore extra calories into your diet also seems unlikely to make you fat as is often a concern! In a recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a group of people undergoing resistance training were fed OVER FIVE TIMES the recommended protein intake and not only didn’t gain fat but put on lean muscle! Check it out HERE if you're interested to see the study!
Most of us on a traditional western diet will not have trouble meeting our body's protein requirement to maintain good health. This is only around 64 grams per day as recommended by Australian Government standards - but when we undertake a training program our protein requirements are increased. Protein containing whole foods are great sources, but supplementation with protein powders can be a convenient and tasty way to ensure you are getting adequate protein - so a post-workout shake is definitely a great option!