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Do You Need Protein Immediately After Exercise?

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“Bro” culture has given us the image of the gymrat slamming down the whey protein shake before the dumbbells have hit the floor on his last set. But is this even necessary?

In a word, no. Protein is important to ensure proper muscle recovery after training, but the windows are not as tight as once believed. In one study comparing consuming protein 1hr after a training session vs. 3hrs after, the response was the same. What influences the response is also what you ate before training, and if there was adequate protein in this meal, that will also carry over to your meal after training.

What really matters is your total protein intake over the course of the day. Even at this, there is a protein craze in marketing currently: protein bars abound on shop shelves, traditional chocolate bars like Mars or Snickers have added 20g of protein to, well, ruin their bars, and everything now has ‘added protein’. You don’t need any of it.

You do need food. In this way, just make sure you have a serving of protein with each meal. For omnivores, any sort of meat, fish, poultry, or high protein Greek yogurt or eggs will do. For vegans, around 170g tofu will provide a dose of protein sufficient to maximally activate muscle protein recovery.

And powders? They’re useful, but only for convenience, they’re not essential. They can be handy to make smoothies in the morning, or to add to porridge to boost the protein content, and for people who are on-the-go a lot. So yes, they are a good addition to the pantry, but not essential.

What about timing? Keep it simple: have a good protein-containing meal within the 2-3hrs before your training, and within 2hrs afterwards, and you’ll be fine.

As always, stay fit, stay healthy.