Most of us are used to it by now, scooping a heap of protein into our shakers at the end of a tough training session. But how many trainers really take notice of just how much protein they’re having? And does it matter? Well, the answer is yes and the amount of protein you actually need might just surprise you.
Why You Need Protein After Training
Any form of exercise, but particularly resistance or weight training causes muscle damage. These are basically minute tears in muscle tissue due to mechanical stress from lifting weights or other strenuous activities. In order to rebuild muscle tissue, protein is needed, because it provides the necessary amino acids to help stimulate repair and growth.
Most of us simply rely on the protein scoops we get in our protein supplements to measure out the amount of protein you consume, but is that really enough? Previous research1,2 has shown that intakes of 20-25g of protein were enough to fully maximise the muscle synthesis processes in the body after weight training. But surely, if you have more muscle, you would need more right?
**Protein is essential after and around training times to help support optimal recovery and muscular performance.**
Do You Need More Protein If You Weigh More?
Recent research3 has examined whether or not the amount of muscle mass you have determines how much protein you need in order to maximise muscle growth and recovery processes. Also, is there a limit or a threshold at which more protein won’t necessarily result in any more significant change? One of these studies by MacNaughton et al3 examined two groups of men; one with more muscle mass and one with less. Both groups trained and then consumed either 20g or 40g of protein before being tested for their muscle protein synthesis (MPS) rate. Interestingly, they found that the amount of muscle mass you have doesn’t affect how much protein you need.
**In other words – it appears that no matter how much muscle you have, the same amount of protein will have the same effect.**
More Protein is Better Than Less
What was interesting though was that 40g of protein seemed to result in better muscle protein synthesis (MPS) rates than 20g. This appears to contradict some of the earlier research showing 20-25g was more than enough to maximally stimulate muscle building. So which result is more accurate? Well, if you take a deeper look into the studies, the more current one has a larger sample size or number of participants at 30, while the older studies had less than half that. In addition the older studies examined trainers after a legs only training session, whilst the current study examined trainers after a whole body session. So it seems as though you might have better gains if you have a little more protein than you usually have.
**40g of protein appears to be better than 20-25g of protein for muscle growth and muscle protein synthesis.**
How Much Protein Do You Really Need After Workouts?
The amount of protein you need after your workouts really depends on a couple of factors. These include the intensity, duration and exercises performed during your workouts and potentially the amount of muscle mass you have as well. However, in order to maintain optimal muscular performance, it is best to ensure adequate protein consumption and the post-exercise period is one of the best times to consume that protein. As a general rule:
- For lighter workout sessions or those involving smaller muscle groups such as arms, calves and abs – aim for a protein intake of at least 25g
- For heavier workout sessions or sessions involving compound exercises and training multiple large muscle groups such as legs, chest and back – aim for at least 40g of protein
The most important aspect though is to simply ensure adequate protein intake throughout the day. Unless you’re shredding, try to aim for 1.5g-2g of protein intake per kilogram of body weight and spread throughout the day. If you are shredding, aim for a little more.1. Witard OC, Jackman SR, Breen L, Smith K, Selby A, Tipton KD. ‘Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses of whey protein at rest and after resistance exercise.’ Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;99(1):86-95.
2. Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, Tang JE, Glover EI, Wilkinson SB, Prior T, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. ‘Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men.’ Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):161-8. 3. Macnaughton LS, Wardle SL, Witard OC, McGlory C, Hamilton DL, Jeromson S, Lawrence CE, Wallis GA, Tipton KD. ‘The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein.’ Physiol Rep. 2016 Aug;4(15). pii: e12893.