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How important is protein post-workout?

Eleanor Jackson

Athletes and gym bunnies constantly rave about the importance of protein post-workout…but what’s the science behind this? Keep reading to find out more!

When you exercise your muscles use up their glycogen stores, especially if the workout is of high intensity. This results in your glycogen stores being used up. Alongside this, exercise breaks down and make tears in your muscles.

After you finish exercising, your body rebuilds the glycogen stores and tries to repair the muscles that were torn. This process can be sped up by eating the right foods post-workout.

One macronutrient essential for this process is protein. Protein contains 4 calories per gram or, another way of thinking of it, 16.8 kilojoules of energy per gram. Protein helps decrease muscle protein breakdown, increase muscle growth and rebuild glycogen. Eating high protein foods post-workout can therefore enhance the recovery process. This gives your body the amino acids it needs to help repair muscles and build new muscle tissue.

Research suggests that it is best to consume this protein up to 45 minutes post workout, to reap the full benefits (Aragon et al., 2013). However other studies have found that this window is longer and protein can be consumed for a few hours after exercise to feel the optimal benefits (Schoenfeld et al., 2017) or even an hour before exercise (Tipton et al., 2007). If you exercise regularly though, it is important to consistently eat protein throughout the day so try to eat a protein source in every meal.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommend that adults should eat 1-2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight – closer to 2 if you exercise regularly.

One delicious & nutritious source of protein is Bounce energy balls. Each ball is less than 185 calories and has 8-10g of protein in. Plus they’re super easy to carry with you, so make a perfect on-the-go protein boost. My personal favourites are Maple Pecan Cashew and Millionaire’s – packed with protein, energy and flavour!

Hope you found this article helpful and feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

Written by @exercisingwitheleanor