Post Workout Protein: What Your Muscles Need

June 16, 2020 | coronavirus, Nutrition

Dev Mishra, M.D.

President, Sideline Sports Doc

Medical Director, Apeiron Life

Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University


Eitan Gelber, MA, ATC, CSCS, CMT

Director of Training, Apeiron Life


June 16, 2020

Key Points:

  • Consuming about 20gm of protein in the first 30 minutes after a resistance training workout will help you increase strength and gain muscle mass
  • This is particularly important for the adult athlete, and becomes even more important as we age
  • Natural high protein foods are our recommended post workout food choice, and we provide a list of some foods to focus on

Continuing our theme of return to sports and fitness after the coronavirus layoff, we’d like to briefly touch on the usefulness of dietary protein after your workout as a key factor in assisting your strength gains.

There’s some difference of opinion on this point, but we believe that taking in about 20gm of protein within the first 30 minutes after finishing your workout is the best time to take your protein.

Further, we believe protein intake after a workout becomes even more important as we age, and there are several natural food options available to help you.

Protein Intake Helps Healthy Individuals Maintain Muscle Mass

Protein intake is necessary to maintain muscle mass, and for most of us the best way to find our protein is through clean, natural dietary sources. And by that we mean real food. We’ve provided a list below of some good choices.

Some of you may want to find supplemental protein through protein bars or powders. Those are reasonable choices for their convenience, but be careful of taking in added sugars and chemicals often found in these supplements.

Due to a number of hormonal and other changes that take place with normal aging it becomes harder to gain and maintain muscle mass as we get into our 40s and beyond. The scientific term for the normal loss of muscle tissue is “sarcopenia”, and by including resistance training in your weekly regimen along with proper protein intake you can win the muscle mass battle.

There is ample scientific evidence that protein intake in the proper amounts is proven to increase strength compared to resistance training with lesser amounts of protein. Total protein intake should be about 1.5g/kg/day, and you should take in about 20gm protein after your resistance workout.

Best Time For Protein Intake Is In The First 30 Minutes After Exercise

There is some debate about whether timing of your protein intake matters, or whether you simply need to just take in the required total protein in your day. We believe that timing does matter. In addition to making sure you have the adequate amount of protein in your day, we also believe that it’s important to take in about 20gm protein n the first 30 minutes after your resistance workout.

Our personal experience favors post workout protein, and we find this is especially true in adult athletes. Here is a review paper that outlines the various rationales for protein timing.

Focus On Natural Proteins That Have High Leucine Content

Proteins are made from combinations of amino acids, and it appears that leucine is one of the most important amino acids to support muscle strength and mass gains. You want to make sure you’re taking in at least 3gm of leucine in your post workout protein.

Wait, this is getting too hard to remember! Grams, kilograms, timing- what is a simple method to follow?

Ok here it is: focus on these foods in your post workout meal. These foods are excellent protein sources andhave a relatively high leucine content.

  • Chicken legs
  • Beef
  • Pork chops
  • Tuna (caution: farmed tuna is often too high in mercury- you want to avoid that…)
  • Firm tofu (an excellent choice if you’re vegan or vegetarian)
  • Navy beans
  • Whole milk
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Eggs

Give this a try and we think it’ll make your strength efforts really pay off.



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