Diet and Nutrition

Post-Workout Protein is Absolutely Necessary

Post-Workout Protein is Absolutely Necessary

Key Takeaways

  • Experts claim that eating or drinking protein after a workout is the best way to recover muscles.

Experts claim that eating or drinking protein after a workout is the best way to recover muscles, but there is no consensus regarding what protein is the best option for muscle recovery and growth after strenuous exercise. According to a new study conducted by researchers, whey protein seems to be better than casein in muscle repair and maintenance. Another study that observed people working out who did aerobic workouts reports that protein that contains high amounts of amino acid leucine is a better option, when compared to proteins that contain lower amounts of this amino acid.  

Researcher Stefan M. Pasiakos, PhD, a research physiologist with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, reports that more amount of leucine is beneficial for muscle recovery. Both the studies, one that looked at resistance training, and the other looked at aerobic workouts are published in, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

During a workout the muscles breakdown and later undergo recovery and growth. Protein shakes are very popular diets taken before and after a workout for good muscle growth and recovery. Many studies focus on the best combination of proteins for the recovery of muscles after a workout.

Researcher Daniel W.D. West, a PhD student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and his colleagues compared the effect of one large dose of whey protein taken immediately after a workout with that of several small and paced out doses of whey protein. The results showed that the effect of several smaller doses of whey protein was similar to that of another protein, casein. Casein and whey are both proteins found in the milk but the difference is that casein is digested slowly while whey is digested very rapidly. Hence in this study smaller doses of whey were used to mimic casein and these smaller doses were compared to one large dose of whey.

There were eight participants who were 20-years-old, and all of them took the doses immediately after a workout, which comprised of eight sets of about 10 repetitions in the leg extension machine. Single large dose was more effective when compared to repeated smaller doses. The amino acid concentrations in the blood were higher after one big dose.

West claims that when whey is digested rapidly it releases a large amount of essential amino acids including leucine. These essential amino acids act as a signal for increasing the muscle protein synthesis. This expedites the muscle growth, repair and maintenance.

In another study, Pasiakos and his colleagues observed the effect of leucine in muscle recovery and growth after a workout on an exercise bike for an hour in seven men and one woman in the average age of 24-years-old. During the two workouts during the study, the participants had high protein drink with 10 grams of protein immediately after the workout. The concentration of amino acid in the drinks after the two workouts was different – one had 19% while the second time it been 35%. The results show that muscle tissues respond better to the drink with a higher concentration of leucine.

According to Felicia Stoler, RD, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist, who reviewed the study findings, said that the studies should be repeated. Only after confirming the results can doctor recommend an increase in protein after exercise. Some protein after a workout is good but it is not needed in excess. Many people take more protein than they actually do. American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Association recommends a daily dose of 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, especially for endurance and strength-trained athletes.