Protein timing used to be a pretty conclusive topic; just about everyone recommended that you should consume protein ASAP after training. Unfortunately, this led to many supplement companies pouncing on the idea and formulating marketing plans designed to portray their protein as the fastest and most efficient form of protein for that post-workout period. However, a meta-analysis from Schoenfeld, Aragon, and Krieger (2013) concluded by stating that total daily protein intake is more important for muscle growth than protein timing, so what gives?
If you look closer at this review from Schoenfeld et al. (2013), you’ll notice something interesting. Only a small handful of the included original research trials actually assessed consuming protein immediately post-workout vs other times of the day – the other studies simply had subjects consume protein at different time points, or protein vs carbs/placebos pre-workout or post-workout. There’s a red flag. In addition, of the three studies that actually examined timing as a variable, only two used trained athletes. For most bodybuilders, we like to see studies using trained athletes as this population is likely going to exhibit a similar response to a research intervention when compared to bodybuilders. Novice or untrained lifters more than likely won’t. Lastly, of these two studies, only one used a high-quality whey protein – Cribb and Hayes (2006). No surprise here, Cribb and Hayes (2006) found that consuming whey protein before and after training led to greater gains than consuming whey protein in the morning and evening, away from training.
Unfortunately, this review might have been performed a little too early as we don’t have conclusive evidence as to whether or not protein timing is important – especially for well-trained lifters whom might be even more sensitive to protein timing – check our Anabolic Window Quick Tip here for more info on that. With the shortcomings of this review in mind, virtually every source that has come out over the past ten years has continued to recommend consuming protein ASAP after training (Aragon & Schoenfeld, 2013; Jager et al. 2017; and many more) as do Schoenfeld et al. (2013) in the conclusion of the aforementioned review.
While we don’t have concrete data on post-workout protein consumption being more beneficial, we have a solid mechanism for why it could be, and we also have no reason not to recommend consuming protein right after training. There might be a benefit, and there’s no harm if there isn’t. Seems like a bit of a no-brainer, right? We don’t think you necessarily need a whey shake right after training, but that is a good option if it’s convenient for you. A full meal with a high quality protein source (chicken, eggs, beef, etc.) is also perfectly fine. Total daily protein intake is still probably more important overall, but do your best to get one of your protein servings ASAP after training.
Jäger, R., Kerksick, C. M., Campbell, B. I., Cribb, P. J., Wells, S. D., Skwiat, T. M., … & Smith-Ryan, A. E. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 1-25.
Andersen, L. L., Tufekovic, G., Zebis, M. K., Crameri, R. M., Verlaan, G., Kjaer, M., … & Aagaard, P. (2005). The effect of resistance training combined with timed ingestion of protein on muscle fiber size and muscle strength. Metabolism, 54(2), 151-156.
Esmarck, B., Andersen, J. L., Olsen, S., Richter, E. A., Mizuno, M., & Kjaer, M. (2002). Timing of post‐exercise protein intake is important for muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly humans. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 12(1), 60-60.
Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., & Krieger, J. W. (2013). The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 53.
From being a mediocre athlete, to professional powerlifter and strength coach, and now to researcher and writer, Charlie combines education and experience in the effort to help Bridge the Gap Between Science and Application. Charlie performs double duty by being the Content Manager for The Muscle PhD as well as the Director of Human Performance at the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, FL. To appease the nerds, Charlie is a PhD candidate in Human Performance with a master’s degree in Kinesiology and a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. For more alphabet soup, Charlie is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), an ACSM-certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP), and a USA Weightlifting-certified performance coach (USAW).