5 facts on why post-workout protein is important

Take protein within 30 minutes after completing a workout.

PROTEIN’S no stranger to the nutritional spotlight, first hailed as a miracle weight-loss solution (thanks Atkins!), and now championed as the vital ingredient for reaping maximum muscle-tone rewards with our workouts.

Sports nutritionist Charlotte Kennedy and performance nutritionist Ted Munson share some key protein pointers.

Will I start looking bulky?

Munson says this needn’t be a concern, plus you’d have to really ‘try’ to achieve a bodybuilder physique! 

“Protein contributes to growth and maintenance of muscle mass, but women should associate protein with maintaining a lean physique, not ‘bulking’. 

"Your body will only adapt to the stresses you put it under, so unless you lift heavy weights in short sets, you won’t get bulky.”

How important are the post-workout time frames for consuming protein?

“You may have heard about the ‘training window’ after intense exercise or conditioning. This is a good time to take on protein, as your metabolism stays lifted for around 30 minutes after exercise,” says Munson.

“Micro-tears occur in muscles during intense exercise and taking in protein within this time-period can help accelerate muscle rebuild.”

What if I’m trying to lose weight?

This is a common misconception, but Kennedy warns it’s risky to skip eating post-exercise. 

“Recovery is very important and it’s the one time where I advise you don’t cut calories, because that’s when your body really needs nutrients. 

"If you’re trying to lose weight, rather than skipping your recovery intake, look at how you can create a calorie deficit across the whole day: for instance, you could look at cutting 100 calories at breakfast, 100 at lunch and 100 at dinner, then you’ve created a 300-calorie deficit.”

How much protein do I need for recovery?

“It depends how much, and what sort of exercise you’re doing, and what your goals are,” says Kennedy.

While it is possible to get quite in-depth with calculations and planning, for those following demanding regimes, as a general guide, Kennedy adds: “For post-exercise, we say about 20g. You don’t need more than that.”

In terms of actual foods, 20g is generally the same as a palm-sized portion, and while consuming more than this (within reason) usually won’t harm you, it generally isn’t necessary.

Do I only need to think about eating protein after workouts?

No — while protein plays a specific role post-workout, it’s important as part of your overall diet too. 

Official guidelines suggest 50g a day for adults, and if you are training, you may be taking on more.

“Everybody has different needs; however the ideal level to support the rate of making new tissue is to have around 20-25g every three to four hours. 

"This will help reduce muscle breakdown and facilitate muscle protein synthesis,” says Munson.

Should protein be my main dietary concern?

No again! “Fitness media portray protein as the number one nutrient for health — which means some people may neglect or leave out other nutrients,” notes Munson. 

“For example, fat’s important for the absorption of vitamins A, D and E. 

"If you fully restricted fat, you’d eventually become deficient in these, which can have a drastic effect.”


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