So, you’ve decided to start lifting weights to get strong and take advantage of all the other benefits resistance training has to offer. Or maybe you’ve been doing it for a long time and are living the dream.
Either way, you’ve probably heard one thing repeated by personal trainers and fitness gurus: “eat more protein.” And that’s excellent advice. Protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery, but so are healthy fats and carbohydrates. In the long term, a balanced diet that’s relatively high in protein can encourage strength, health, and longevity.
But you’ve also likely been told that protein timing is a big deal and downing a protein shake right after a workout is essential for optimizing recovery and growth.
Not so fast.
Yes, there is some research indicating that a protein shake immediately following a workout helps kickstart the growth and recovery process, while limiting muscle soreness. That window—sometimes known as the anabolic window to serious lifters—was believed to be an essential time for protein consumption if optimal muscle gain, strength, and recovery was the goal.
But the theory of an anabolic window, and especially isolating protein as the only macronutrient to follow a workout, has mostly fallen out of favor. New research and reviews indicate, for the most part, that nutrient timing does not matter to strength gains, muscle composition, recovery, or pain relief. A new study, published in the August edition of the Journal of Human Kinetics, echoes these results.
Therefore, don’t stress out about getting protein directly following a workout; just eat when you’re hungry. Protein supplements are an easy and convenient way to boost overall protein intake, and sipping one per day, especially in the morning, can help regulate appetite, encourage better food choices, and help build strength and muscle. But most people don’t need to drink one within 30 minutes of a workout.
Instead, focus more on what you’re eating during the day. Including protein with every meal, as well as plenty of healthy carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, in addition to healthy fats, will give your body everything it needs for recovery, strength, and overall health.