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Protein: Pre or post workout?

As most of us are no doubt aware, protein is an absolute must for anyone who’s taking part in regular exercise. Often associated with ‘Mr/Mrs Universe’ type physiques, bodybuilders or powerlifters for example, a high protein diet is a must for anyone looking to build muscle mass. Making humongous gains in terms of your size  isn’t the only reason to keep an eye on your protein intake though (nor is it necessarily going to happen from simply eating more protein). The functions of this essential building block of our bodies are many. When you consume it is important too, and in this blog we’ll explore a bit more about what getting your protein fix before or after your workout means for your body.

Post-workout protein

Many people prefer to make a beeline for their chosen protein source straight after finishing their workout. The reason for this is what’s commonly known as the ‘metabolic window’ (also referred to as the anabolic window) that opens up after you’ve done your thing on the pitch or in the gym. Lasting roughly half an hour, this window is thought by many to be the perfect time to give those hard working muscles a protein-based reward. The theory behind this approach is that because your muscle fibres are damaged after lifting, running, jumping and so on the rate at which your body synthesises protein is spiked. So, taking advantage of a high protein supplement, snack or meal at this point can really help repair those muscles that you’ve been busy working.

Pre-workout protein

There is another school of thought however, that suggests pre-workout protein consumption is more beneficial than taking advantage of the supposed metabolic window that appears post-exercise. It’s thought that getting a healthy portion of protein in before you start exercising may actually decrease the chances of the exercise-induced muscle breakdown that occurs naturally during exercise – effectively offering the same benefit as consuming protein after your workout.

Are you getting enough?

Whether you’re just looking to keep the DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) from the door or build muscle mass, you’re going to need protein. The jury seems to be out on whether protein is best absorbed before or after your workout. These two studies (1, 2) are great in-depth examinations of the effects of each approach and may help you make up your mind. The fundamental benefits that a high-protein diet* offers us are pretty compelling – all the more reason to keep a stock of Protein 40 milk handy!

*Don’t forget to always consult your GP before making changes to your diet.