Should I eat protein after cardio?

In this brief article, we will answer the query “Should I eat protein after cardio?” In addition, we will provide information about the role of protein in muscle recovery, the best protein sources, and what is the best time to eat protein.

Should I eat protein after cardio?

Yes, you should eat protein after cardio to ensure a proper muscle recovery from exercise. Muscle recovery is important to get the most out of training, as well as maintain a good performance in the next one.

What is the protein’s role in muscle recovery?

After your training, your muscles are fatigued and the exercise coil causes muscle fibers to rupture. Your body will repair your muscles during the 24 to 48 hours after your training, and you should feed your body with high-quality proteins (2,3).

Proteins are made from amino acids; high-quality proteins are those that contain all essential amino acids (amino acids that your body cannot synthesize) (2).

Essential amino acids are critical to promote muscle synthesis and recovery; one of the most significant amino acids is Leucine, it can activate metabolic pathways that help your metabolism to accelerate muscle synthesis (2,3).

What are High-Quality protein sources for an optimal recovery?

All animal-derived foods are considered as sources of high quality proteins (2), for example:

  • Meats (especially lean meats).
  • Milk and Greek yogurt.
  • Eggs.
  • Fish.
  • Poultry.
  • Whey and casein protein powders.

What is the recommended protein intake after cardio sessions?

You should consume between 16 and 20 g of protein from any of the protein sources mentioned above, including protein supplements; this quantity will ensure a good recovery and muscle synthesis (1).

What is the best timing for your protein consumption after cardio?

The best time for having your protein is within 45 minutes after your training. This 45-minute period is known as the anabolic window.

The anabolic window refers to a time-period where your body is very sensitive to all nutrients you eat. Hence, the energy, carbohydrates, and proteins you eat will be rapidly absorbed and used for recovery.

What is the importance of other nutrients in post-cardio recovery?

An essential nutrient for an optimal post-cardio recovery are carbohydrates; carbohydrates form glycogen, your main energy store in muscles (1). 

After an exhaustive cardio training, your energy stores are depleted, and if you do not provide the carbohydrates for recovery, your body will break down some muscle to convert proteins to glucose (1).

Fats are also important, all metabolic processes involved in recovery and muscle synthesis require energy, and fats can provide you with a lot of valuable energy. You can select healthy fats such as olive oil, besides energy, it provides you with antioxidant properties (1).


In this brief article, we answered the query “Should I eat protein after cardio?” In addition, we provided information about the role of protein in muscle recovery, the best protein sources, and what is the best time to eat protein.


  1. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in Nutrition, 2018;58(5):867–867.
  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. Waskiw-Ford M, Hannaian S, Duncan J, Kato H, Abou Sawan S, Locke M, et al. Leucine-enriched essential amino acids improve recovery from post-exercise muscle damage independent of increases in integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men. Nutrients, 2020;12(4):1061.
  1. Arent SM, Cintineo HP, McFadden BA, Chandler AJ, Arent MA. Nutrient timing: A garage door of opportunity? Nutrients, 2020;12(7):1948.

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