Workout Protein: Before or After, and Why

by Roki Prunali

The age-old discussion circling our fitness forums: should I have protein before or after a workout. Oy vey. I have yet to come across a trainer that has not put in their two cents on the matter, including our infamous super trainer Kirwin, who is consistently badgering us to eat two eggs after a workout, “but only one yolk” (imagine that in his English accent).

This so-called “protein timing” is so controversial because our body is building muscle and recovering mostly all day, so protein is welcome at any hour. Whatever your favor, here are some means to make it work either before or after your workout.

Pre-Workout Protein

Each macronutrient has its role to play in your pre-workout intake. We know that carbs give us energy for a high intensity workout, but protein does further work by aiding the muscle protein synthesis. Ingesting protein before exercise offers a better anabolic response (meaning muscle growth) and improved muscle recovery. One to two hours after eating, your body will be the most receptive to protein.

Timing may be key, but I find it to be very subjective to each individual. Tamu gets in her protein pre-workout with a great protein packed shake within an hour before her workout. If I were to follow her lead, you would find me expelling that delicious shake in the corner of the workout room or bending over with unbearable cramps. That is just the way the protein cookie crumbles.

Choose a time that is suitable for you, but 45 to 60 minutes prior to your workout should be ample time. If you need some serious fuel but you’re cutting it close on the doors closing to your SoulCycle class, opt for protein energy balls, a banana or Greek yogurt, which may be easier to digest.

Protein Workout

Another popular myth is that your protein needs to be animal-based. In 2018, I am pretty confident in saying that is a big fat lie. We do, however, need to mix up our proteins, and plant-based proteins leave us with tons of options. Having a salad to keep it light? Toss in a handful of black beans – not only do they kick up the flavor, but they are protein-packed. Kick white rice to the curb and completely substitute it with quinoa. The most secret weapon of them all? Chia seeds. You pretty much can sprinkle this goodness on anything and not have to worry about it altering the taste.

After Workout Protein

You’ve heard it before: your body is like a sponge after a workout, thus being the most opportune time for your protein intake, and when we are prone to need help in recovery and adaptation. Latest research shows that the window is quite a bit larger than we thought, and the recovery process can kick off even up to 2 hours after your workout. Especially if your workout was short or moderate, you can definitely wait until your next meal. If it was a high-intensity workout or lasted over two hours, maybe try to get in some protein somewhat closer to finishing.

The trick to post workouts, when you are not going straight home, is bringing your trusty snacks along for the ride, even if it’s just a small container or trail mix to get you to your next meal. If you make your trail mix at home, give an extra pour to your almonds and walnuts to pack in more protein. You can also pre-prepare little protein banana bites by mixing banana, almond butter and Greek Yogurt. Then make a mini banana sandwich by slathering your mix in between two cut pieces of banana. Place them in the freezer and after two hours, you have a foolproof snack to throw in your bag.

Workout Protein

Image Courtesy of Eat Me Skinny

Jonesing for a smoothie? After my strenuous Barry’s Bootcamp sessions, refueling is a must for me, and their Fuel Bar gets me back on track. If you want to make one at home, try this orange mango creamsicle:

Blend 1½ cups of unsweetened almond milk, a scoop of your favorite protein powder (I tend to stick to whey protein), 1 cup of mango chunks (even frozen), 2 tablespoons of almond butter, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon of turmeric (you know I add that stuff everywhere).

How do you Pretty Birds get your protein?

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