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Trainer Q&A: How Much Protein Do I Need After a Workout?

Our fitness expert explains exactly how much protein your body needs after a workout to maximize muscle growth and fat loss.
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Along with the typical clanking and banging of weights in the gym, you’ll often hear another sound - shaking. The quest for more muscle leads guys to pound protein shakes post-workout and any other time throughout the day for fear of their muscles wasting away without it. Is all of that protein really necessary?

There’s no question that protein is a much-needed nutrient in terms of building muscle and improving your numbers in the gym. Proteins are made of amino acids, small building blocks necessary for synthesizing muscle. Since protein is necessary for better results in the gym, more must mean better right? Not according to Nate Miyaki, nutrition specialist and author of the Intermittent Feast, “More does not always mean better, despite what juiced up bodybuilders would have you believe. For the average dude going about it naturally, there is only so much protein the body can use for tissue construction.” That translates to just under 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Consume any more, and it’s likely just going to waste.

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In terms of timing, you’ll often hear individuals reference the “anabolic window” - a period of time after your workout that leads to the best recovery. Usually this time frame ranges between 45 minutes to an hour post-workout. According to Miyaki, what you eat post-workout is important, but not for the reasons most people think. “The primary goal post-workout should be to provide your body with an immediate fuel source to prevent it from breaking down muscle tissue for energy.” As a result, Miyaki advises lifters to include some fast digesting carbs along with protein after a lift. The carbs will help spare your body’s own energy source and the protein will help to repair muscle and encourage muscle growth. Don’t be extremely worried if you can’t get food in immediately after exercise. Although the anabolic window is important, “building muscle is not just about what you do immediately post-workout, it is about what you do with your overall diet,” Miyaki cautions.

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Although consuming protein after a hard lifting session may amplify your results and increase recovery, it certainly doesn’t make or break your success. Focus on your entire nutrition and training approach including consuming enough calories and protein during the entire day. To make the most of your training, consume a meal, either whole-food or liquid form, within an hour after your workout containing both fast-digesting carbs and protein. This will prevent your body from using its own muscle tissue for energy and help encourage muscle synthesis. Translation: better results and faster recovery for your next lifting session.

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