It’s never been easier to get a quick bite of protein after a workout.
Between shakes and bars, it seems like there is a protein snack everywhere you turn. You’ll probably find a high-protein snack in the bag or every serious athlete at the gym. In general, this can be a good thing, but just how much protein do you need after a hard lifting session or practice?
“The right post-workout nutrition gives our muscles and body what they need to recover, rebuild, and stop muscle protein breakdown,” explains nutrition coach Kris Wilkins. “Protein is an important part of that plan.”
When you work out or practice intensely, you damage tissues on a micro-level. You also use fuel.
Ultimately, this is what makes us stronger, more fit, leaner, and more muscular. However, in the short term, it requires repair.
So, what exactly is a good post-training snack, and how much protein should be in it? Here’s what you need to know.
How much protein do you need after a workout?
“Protein is the building block of our muscles and other tissues so we need it to be there when our body starts repairing any damage from training,” says Wilkins.
As to how much protein you need, it depends on what kind of workout you were doing. If you just finished a high-intensity practice with lots of sprinting, running, or swimming, you’ll need a bit more than if you just did yoga.
In general, studies show that getting about 20-40 grams of protein after a strenuous workout is recommended.
To get more specific, research suggests that you should consume between 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight after a workout. An athlete doing more intensive training may lean toward the higher side of this recommendation.
What Protein Is Best For Athletes After A Workout?
Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of our muscles and are necessary for energy and proper bodily function. However, not all proteins are created equal. Some foods are more complete sources of protein and others don’t contain all of the amino acids your body needs.
Complete proteins naturally contain all the essential amino acids and varying amounts of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). The BCAAs are important to support muscle protein synthesis. Complete proteins include sources like animal-based products such as meat, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based products like soy.
Protein quality doesn’t only depend on the amino acid profile. How easy it is to digest and how quickly those proteins are available to our body is important.
Some proteins are more readily digested than others, and your body can generally access all of the amino acids from animal sources, such as milk. Generally speaking, animal sources of protein are more readily digested, compared to plant sources. Whey protein is a common choice.
Athletes Need Carbs With Their Protein!
While protein is pivotal, it doesn’t act alone. Carbs are also required post-workout because they help replenish your energy. Wilkins says, “Consuming 3-4 times as many grams of carbs compared to protein post-workout is a good rule of thumb.”
Your body needs fuel to repair those tissues and use the amino acids. It also needs to restore its stores for the next practice or training session.
Another benefit of adding carbs is that the combination of carbohydrates and amino acids after exercise stimulates growth hormone and testosterone. That helps you recover and rebuild faster.
What To Eat To Get Protein Post Workout
The main goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption.
This list contain examples of simple and easily digested proteins:
- Animal- or plant-based protein powder
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Protein bar
Sample Post-Workout Meals
Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:
- Recovery shake with carbs and protein
- Protein shake and banana.
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
- Salmon with sweet potato.
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole-grain bread.
- Tuna and crackers.
- Cottage cheese and fruits.
- Pita and hummus.
- Whole grain toast and almond butter.
- Greek yogurt, berries, and granola.
Athletes Need Protein After Training
Whether a recovery drink or a whole food meal, you want to eat something within 30-60 minutes after you finish training or practice. That’s when your body needs recovery the most.
It is particularly important to eat both carbs and protein after your workout.
Doing this helps your body:
- Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
- Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
- Restore glycogen stores.
- Enhance recovery.
- International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing
- Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise
- American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance
- Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids
- An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein
- Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short-term recovery
- Dietary supplements affect the anabolic hormones after weight-training exercise