How long after a workout should you eat protein?

This article will answer the query “How long after a workout should you eat protein?”, additionally, it will present relevant information such as what the anabolic window is, and what other nutrients are needed after your workout.

How long after a workout should you eat protein?

You should eat your protein within the 45 minutes after you finish your workout, this 45 minute period is known as the Anabolic Window. Eating your protein in this 45 minute period will ensure that your body will start recovering and repairing your muscles (1).

What is The Anabolic Window?

The anabolic window is the period after workout where your muscles are extremely sensible to all nutrients (1). 

In the anabolic window, your muscles are stressed and full of cortisol, this could induce some muscle breakdown to create energy, because you are out of glucose in your blood (1).

Therefore, it is common to use this anabolic window to eat and refuel your body with all nutrients to prevent muscle breakdown, promote muscle recovery, and replenish your energy storage (1).

What is the importance of protein in muscle repair?

Proteins are important in muscle repair because they contain amino acids, which are the building blocks for creating tissues like your muscles (2,3).

Exercise gets your muscles stressed and it can do some “injuries” to muscle fibers. Your body needs to repair those injuries, but you will need amino acids for muscle repair. Hence, proteins are the container of those building blocks to repair your muscle fibers! (2,3)

In athletes, muscle repair is crucial for improving resistance, strength, power, and endurance. Therefore, the athlete’s performance will depend to a great extent on their diet, and protein is an essential nutrient (2,3).

What is the importance of protein quality?

Protein quality is a crucial aspect you have to look at in your post-workout meal; high quality proteins provide you with all amino acids required for muscle repair (1,3). 

If you consume incomplete proteins (like those in legumes and cereals) that do not provide all essential amino acids, your body will not be able to repair the muscles properly (4).

You can find high quality proteins in foods like meat, milk, fish, and eggs. On the other hand, legumes and cereals, individually, lack some amino acids. For example, legumes like lentils or beans lack Methionine; while cereals like corn or wheat lack Lysine (5,6). 

However, you can combine both legumes and cereals to complement each other and consume complete proteins (6).

What is the role of Carbohydrates Post-Workout Recovery?

Carbohydrates are also important nutrients for post-workout recovery. The main energy storage of your body, and also your muscles, is glycogen. Glycogen is a complex molecule composed of glucose (1).

When you exercise, you consume all your glycogen. After workout, the first objective of your body will be refueling this glycogen storage. Therefore, consuming carbs after a workout will help your body to refuel its energy easier (1).

Moreover, carbs induce your production of insulin, a hormone needed for anabolic metabolism, which helps to create more muscle fibers if you consume high quality proteins (1).

What are the Best Protein Sources for Post-Workout Consumption?

The best option as a protein source for post-workout consumption is milk. Milk is ideal because it has high quality proteins, provides you with sugars that can replenish your glycogen storage, and it also promotes your hydration (7).

Of course, you can go for a protein shake, or a dish with meat and a source of carbs like rice or bread. The most important thing is to eat high quality protein, a source of carbohydrate, and maintain a good hydration (1).

Conclusion

This article answered the query “How long after a workout should you eat protein?”, additionally, it presented relevant information such as what the anabolic window is, and what other nutrients are needed after your workout.

References

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  1. Baltazar-Martins G, Brito de Souza D, Aguilar-Navarro M, Muñoz-Guerra J, Plata MDM, Del Coso J. Prevalence and patterns of dietary supplement use in elite Spanish athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2019;16(1):30.
  1. Huecker M, Sarav M, Pearlman M, Laster J. Protein supplementation in sport: Source, timing, and intended benefits. Curr Nutr Rep, 2019;8(4):382–96.
  1. Olson B, Marks DL, Grossberg AJ. Diverging metabolic programmes and behaviours during states of starvation, protein malnutrition, and cachexia. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle, 2020;11(6):1429–46.
  1. Bradbury KE, Tong TYN, Key TJ. Dietary intake of high-protein foods and other major foods in meat-eaters, poultry-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans in UK Biobank. Nutrients, 2017;9(12):1317.
  1. Day L. Proteins from land plants – Potential resources for human nutrition and food security. Trends Food Sci Technol, 2013;32(1):25–42.
  1. James LJ, Stevenson EJ, Rumbold PLS, Hulston CJ. Cow’s milk as a post-exercise recovery drink: implications for performance and health. EJSS, 2019;19(1):40–8.