Research hasn’t yet clarified the optimal amount of protein or carbs you should eat around workouts for the maximum benefit. But it is clear that some is better than none, and the presence of both is crucial. A 2006 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology gave male subjects one of the following to consume after weight training: a 6 percent carbohydrate solution, six grams of amino acids (components of protein), a combination of both, or a placebo. Those drinking the carb-and-aminos shake experienced greater muscle gains than any of the other groups, which the researchers presumed was because the concoction did the most to reduce muscle protein breakdown after training.
Meadows recommends taking in 25–50 grams of protein, 25–35 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of fat before training. Afterward, consume another 20–40 grams of protein and 40–80 grams of carbs—you can begin chugging this shake during the workout as well to limit muscle breakdown even further, though this may not be necessary and could upset your stomach. We like to make shakes with whey isolate or hydrolysate as the protein source, and Vitargo or highly branched cyclic dextrin for carbs. If powders and shakes aren’t in your budget, Miyaki says you can go old-school and eat fruit pre- and post-workout. One or two pieces should provide enough carbs to halt muscle breakdown. And a lean three-ounce slice of protein to accompany it is fine.