When trying to build muscle, it’s important to eat a healthy amount of protein regularly throughout the day. However, two of the most critical times of day to consume protein are in the morning and after each of your daily workouts. The key is to consume the right amount of protein to maximize your muscle gains while minimizing the risks associated with consuming too much protein, including an increase in body fat. Consult your doctor to see if protein supplements are right for you.
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Proteins are the building blocks of muscle tissue, so it’s easy to see the nutrient’s importance in the muscle-building process. While you’re sleeping, the amount of amino acids, the body’s usable form of protein, is at its lowest point due to the fact you are fasting for 12 or more hours since your last meal. That’s why it’s so important to consume high-quality protein when you wake up. Skipping breakfast altogether is one of the worst things you can do because your body can actually begin breaking down your muscle tissue for energy. This is a process called muscle catabolism.
Resistance training causes significant trauma to your muscle tissue, which is desirable if you’re looking to build muscle. However, you must consume protein immediately following your workouts to start repairing and building this broken down muscle tissue. Debra Wein of the National Strength and Conditioning Association says ingesting protein immediately after your workout will promote muscle synthesis, which is the process of building new muscle tissue.
The time of day isn’t the only important aspect of building muscle with protein shakes, but the type of protein supplement is equally important. In the morning and after a workout, your body needs protein fast. So, choosing a fast-absorbing protein supplement may be the optimal choice. Whey protein is one of the fastest absorbing protein supplements on the market. Egg protein powder, or whole eggs, also are absorbed fast into body and reach your muscles faster than some protein powders, such as casein or soy.
According to Wein, you can promote muscle synthesis by consuming 15 g of protein after your workouts. Serious athletes may need up to 30 g or 40 g after a training session. The University of Illinois McKinley Health Center recommends 20 g to 25 g of whey protein per day for general health. It also states whey protein has the highest biological value of any protein, meaning it absorbs and is utilized better within your body compared to any other protein. According to Helen Kollias, Ph.D., your body can absorb 8 g to 10 g of whey protein per hour. Based on these facts, you may benefit from consuming two 15 g protein shakes per day -- one in the morning and one after you workout.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association; Post-Exercise Nutrition: Recommendations for Resistance and Endurance Training; Debra Wein, MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, NSCA-CPT, Georgiana Mitrus, MS
- Precision Nutrition; Research Review: Protein Supplements – Are You Absorbing Them?; Helen Kollias, Ph.D.; Dec. 2008