The protein timing question is huge for guys who want to pack on the most amount of muscle in the least amount of time.
It boils down to:
When is the best time to eat a high protein meal or chug a protein shake to build muscle as quickly as possible?
How often do I need to consume protein throughout the day so my workouts aren’t a complete waste of time?
These are the questions haunting you, right?
Ah, my lad. I was once in your position, asking the same questions. I remember tapping my foot and anxiously waiting to top off my post-workout shake behind a dozen other skinny guys in college. I hoped and prayed the minute-long delay between finishing my last set and guzzling down a protein shake wouldn’t disrupt the holy anabolic window.
Muscle magazines made it sound like holy doctrine only heretics dare question.
You need to jam protein and carbs down your throat after a workout or you’ll miss the anabolic window, and muscle growth will become impossible.
But it just ain’t so. We know much more about protein timing than we did a few short years ago. In this article, I’ll break down the biggest protein myths. More importantly, you’ll get the low-down of what you need to know to build muscle and look great naked.
So How Much Protein Do I Need to Consume to Build Muscle?
I won’t spend too much time here, because the “how much” question isn’t what I’m looking to answer in this article. The “when” question is.
However, the “how much” and the “when” questions do have a small connection because every single day, you want to reach your “how much” which inevitably leads you to inquire about “when.”
Or in other words, to reach your minimum protein intake for the day, you need to eat protein during the day.
Common sense, right?
So, what is your target protein intake?
Well, as I mentioned in another post on protein, you want to shoot for a protein intake of somewhere between .82/g/lb. of bodyweight and 1/g/lb. of body weight.
The formula looks like this:
- Low-End Intake: .82g x (your weight lbs.) = Total Protein Intake
- High-End Intake: 1g x (you weight lbs.) = Total Protein Intake
So if you weigh 180 lbs., here’s the math:
- Low-End Intake: .82g x 180lbs. = 147.6/g/lb.
- High-End Intake: 1g x 180 lbs. = 180/g/lb.
So, do you have your “how much” question answered? Good. Let’s move onto protein timing.
Protein Timing Studies
Let’s take a look at the most common time of day men and women alike chug down protein shakes and are hurrying home to pop open their Tupperware containers of pre-cooked grilled chicken: Post workout.
In a study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, six healthy young men reported to a laboratory on five separate occasions to perform an intense leg workout. In a randomized order, each of the men was given different amounts of whole egg protein to drink post-workout (0g,5g,10g,20g,40g). After four hours, protein synthesis and whole-body leucine oxidation were measured to see how effective the amount of protein was for each.
The study concluded 20 grams of protein directly following the leg workouts was the most effective in maximally stimulating muscle response and protein synthesis .
So the answer is obvious, right?
You need to get a protein shake in post-workout at least …right?
Before you bring your 5-pound bag of Gold Standard Whey to the gym with you, check out the following study.
A research analysis (a large grouping of studies unlike the six guys in the study above), published in the Journal of International Society and Sports Nutrition, saw over 1,000 subjects tested for the effect of protein timing on both strength and hypertrophy in subjects. Throughout the study, these dudes were required to meet a specific protein requirement each day.
The results were unsurprising. Researchers concluded, “protein timing has little effect on muscle and strength building.”
Looking at the entire scope of how protein works within the muscle building process, this study refutes the widespread belief that drinking a protein shake intra- and post-workout is essential to building muscle.
So, how do we reconcile the two studies?
Well, it’s important to understand these studies are not really contradictory.
Even though protein intake directly after a workout resulted in greater muscle response than those who didn’t have protein post-workout the first study failed to examine if the subjects were reaching a target protein intake at day’s end.
What you can conclude from the first study is it’s a good idea to eat some protein within a few hours after your workout. You’re probably doing anyway, whether you’re a bodybuilder, athlete, or simply hitting the gym to look good naked.
My Take on Protein Timing
As long as you hit your minimum protein intake for the day, you’ll see similar muscle building results regardless of protein timing.
Have a protein-containing meal within a few hours of your workout, or sip a shake as you walk out of the gym.
What matters most is the amount of protein and frequency, not timing.
Sure, protein timing may make a very minimal impact on your physique, but it won’t make much of a difference overall. Especially if you’re a busy guy who doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to protein timing strategies.
Again, the most important aspect of protein intake how much you’re getting. Until your protein intake, calories, training, and sleep are in line with your goals, it’s foolish for most guys to obsess over protein frequency.
With that said, it’s important for you, even as a busy guy, to have an idea of how you’ll reach your optimal protein intake for the day. If you don’t have a plan of action, you’re more likely to miss your goal protein intake than if you have at least a basic plan in place.
So here are some “protein timing” examples for you.
But first, one more time, with feeling:
It doesn’t matter when you consume protein as long as you get enough.
Divide your optimal protein intake the number of meals you eat each day:
- 2 meals, 1 snack (shake) > Bach Performance protein shake recipes (recipes here)
- 3 meals, 1 snack (shake) > Bach Performance protein shake recipes (recipes here)
- 5 small meals throughout the day
The Bottom Line:
Don’t let the protein timing question haunt you any longer. Set your number. Eat protein. Hit your number by any means necessary. Call it a day and grow. Done.
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