You hit the gym and have a killer workout, hit a PR on every lift and you’re ready to call it a day and go home. There’s only one problem: PROTEIN! You continually ask yourself, how much protein do I need after a workout?
Why all the confusion?
There are tons of “sources” out there that address the question “how much protein do i need?” In fact, just doing a google search gives you over 42 million results.
With so much information available out there, why are people having a hard time with this?
The answer is simple: propaganda.
In this post, we are going to talk about how much protein you need after a workout. We will also explain why protein is important. But first, let’s explore how all of this protein craze started in the first place.
The confusion all starts a few decades ago in the 1960’s. During this time, the government of the United States was trying to figure out why so many European immigrants were dropping dead in their 50’s from heart attacks and CVD.
The answer was simple: from eating too much meat and dairy. Meat and dairy were considered luxuries of the rich in the 1700’s and 1800’s because they were so expensive.
But in the United States, animal products were much cheaper. So the immigrants splurged on these products.
Why Did Protein Go Mainstream?
In the book Proteinaholic, author Garth Davis, M.D., explains how much of the research of that time was exposing the matter. However, this was not good buisness for the meat and dairy industry. Thus, the public relations and propaganda began.
In order to make sure sales would not be affected, public relations would fund several more studies that “showed” how it wasn’t animal products that were doing this but saturated fats.
From then on, the new promotional strategy for meat and dairy become protein! Ever since, people have been comsuming large amounts of protein based on nothing more than a myth.
Why It Is So Hard To Figure Out “How Much Protein Do I Need?”
Ever since this myth has been around there has been mass confusion about protein. People keep asking “how much protein do I need?” or say “I need more protein!” But do they really?
The idea of protein mass consumption has led to a huge amount of marketing and PR campaings. Obvoiously those invested in industries that produce protein want you to think you need more protein because then you will buy more.
Is this the best choice for your life, health or goals? Nope! But when money is on the line, people do some rather strange things.
How Does Protein Correlate With Fats And Carbs
Protein on the other hand is mainly used as a source of building materials. Protein provides the supplies necessary for building a new and powerful physique. Without enough of it progress will soon come to a halt and you will not recover in time for your next training session.
Protein should be a staple in every diet and should be included with every meal whether you are an athlete or not.
Ok now with that out of the way let’s get to the good stuff. How much protein do you really need?
How Much Protein Do I Need? … Its Simple Mathematics
According to Daniel Pendick, former executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, most people need about 0.8 grams per kg of bodyweight per day (0.36 per pound). This is what is recommended for a non-athletic individual who just wants to stay healthy.
For endurance athletes, anywhere from 1.0 – 1.2 grams per kg of bodyweight should do the job. Endurance athletes break down more muscle than the average person, but not as much as strength athletes.
Strength athletes need about 1.4 – 1.8 grams per kg of bodyweight. Strength athletes are breaking down the most muscle tissue, therefore, they need to be taking in higher levels of protein in their diet.
**For The Numerically Challenged**
If you are not gifted with numbers, or are too lazy to google the numbers, fear not. I have your back! All you have to do to figure out your bodyweight in kilograms (kg) is to take your bodyweight in pounds (lbs) and divide it by 2.2. So if you weigh 220 lbs, 220 divided by 2.2 is 100 kg.
Just like our training programs, we can also auto regulate our diet programs as well. Auto-regulation is simply when we decide to tweak our programs at the spur of the moment. This is effective for sending a “shock” to the system.
This is sometimes necessary for our diets as well. If we look at other diet programs like intermittent fasting, this is the secret to that programs success. The fast shocks the cells and forces them to mobilize in ways they don’t normally mobilize.
As a result, we get a faster adaptation and make faster progress. Sounds good! But you also have to know just how much you should tweak what you are doing.
Varying Protein Amounts On A Whim
Here’s the thing, if you train harder and longer, then you will need to take in more protein and calories in general. If you burn too many calories, you will lose both weight and progress. Have you ever seen dramatic strength gains on a diet? Neither have I.
Generally speaking, if an endurance athlete is going through an intense cycle of training, then his/her protein intake will need to increase. A bump up to 1.6 grams per kg of bodyweight will help do the trick.
Strength athletes will need much more protein due to the nature of their sport. A strength athlete will need to take in around 2.0 grams per kg of bodyweight. This will prevent excessive breakdown of muscle tissue.
These figures are not what works best for me, they are based on SCIENCE! These results are from peer reviewed controlled studies from Phillips SM et al., which means they will probably work for all of you as well.
What About The Time I Eat?
Just like the type of food you eat, the time of day you eat will have a dramatic impact on your progress. If you were to ask me the most important time of day to eat, it would definitely be the time IMMEDIATELY after a workout.
In the fantastic nutritional book Nutrient Timing, Dr. John Ivy explains that the period of time after a workout is by far the most important. The small 45 minute timeframe is called the Anabolic Window. During this time you want to take in high glycemic carbs and protein in LIQUID form so it will digest as quickly as possible.
Ideally you would want to take in about 4 grams of carbs for every gram of protein after a workout. This will have the best performance gains. But it will also mean you will have to take in more calories. For a calorie restricted diet, taking in 2 carbs for every gram of protein will have to do.
The Glycemic Index In A Nutshell
If you want to take advantage of this anabolic window, you need to know about the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how strongly your body reacts to sugars. The more profound the reaction, the higher the food is on the glycemic index.
The key differentiator between high or low glycemic foods has to do with fiber. The more fiber a food group has, the lower it will be on the glycemic index.
During the anabolic window (post-workout) you want to consume very high glycemic carbs with protein. This will get the protein into the muscles as quickly as possible after a workout. Sorry to tell you this, but just drinking protein after a workout will not do a thing, Your body will just burn up the protein and convert it into carbs for energy.
Quality vs Quantity
Of course you need to observe the quality of the protein you are eating. Eating too much of the “wrong” protein will not be as effective. The “wrong” type of protein is called an incomplete protein source. This means some of the “essential” amino acids are not contained.
Genrally you want to consume “complete” protein sources, these are the “good” proteins. Unfortunately, most of these protein sources are found from animal sources. I have written a post in the past on vegan strength gains specifically for vegan and vegetarian athletes.
Specifically, these athletes are typically the most protein deficient and could benefit the most from supplementation.
So Exactly How Much Protein Do I Need After A Workout?
According to most of the research out there on post workout protein intake, about 20-30 grams of protein after a workout will have the most benefit.
More is not at all better. Optimal is what you should strive for. Having too much of anything will do more harm than good.
Of course, if you own a supplement company, more is always better because it means you will make more money. But now you know the truth and you will have more power as a consumer so you will not get fooled by any cheezy marketing gimicks.
I’m going to be honest with all of you, I am not the biggest fan of bodybuilding. I think it is very shallow and shortsighted. However, if there is one thing that every athlete can learn from the bodybuilding community, it is DIET.
Having to focus on physique and appearance, bodybuilders have a great amount of nutritional knowledge. In order to be the best, you have to learn from the best. Every field and discipline out there has something to offer.
Being narrow minded and closed off will only hurt you and your progress. So you are now presented with a choice to be open minded or to close yourself off to greatness. The choice is yours!