Post-Workout Supps Everything You Need to Know.
Post workout supps, it’s a big dilemma. In fact, it’s probably the second biggest after your decision about what your gym workout will be.
Admit it, how many times have you got home from the gym and asked yourself: 'how I can I maximise my gains? How many grams of protein should I consume after my workout?' And there are lots of other questions that come into play at the same time:
- Do I rely on protein-rich foods? Or major on supplements?
- What’s the right quantity of protein for what I want to do?
- If I use a supplement should it be a hybrid with a mix of carbs?
- What if I overload on protein? Can that even happen?
But with pressures of work and home life, such considerations are quickly forgotten. Let’s face it, it’s probably hard enough just to find time to visit to the gym as often as you want, let alone plan what you’re going to eat and when.
What you end up with is guesswork. You take decent amounts of protein here and there which, when all is said and done, you think will do you just fine for now.
But that’s the wrong way to go about things
If you want to see and feel serious results (yes, even from your once-a-week excursion), you need to be methodical. Whether you want to be “in shape” but you’re not crazy about body building or you’ve got your sights set on a Strong Man competition, what you’re about to learn from this article comes down a famous old saying: You are what you eat!
Junk food = weight gain (yes, that can happen even if you exercise); too many carbs = weight gain (especially if you have a sedentary job or don’t work out as often as you’d like to); too few vitamins = a weak system.
If you workout, eat a balanced diet AND increase your protein intake you will build up, it’s that simple. That’s why we thought we’d show you how to match the volume of your protein intake to your individual needs and explain when is the best time to digest the all-important 'building blocks'.
No matter what you’re after - muscle, conditioning, general fitness - you need protein. So, buckle up! Here comes our definitive guide to the Hows, Whens, Whats and Whys of taking protein after a workout, and a word or two on why a balanced diet is just as important to enable you to hit your target.
What is Protein?
Protein is an important “macronutrient” which the body has to have in order to run a healthy immune system and boost cell growth… and in case you hadn’t noticed, your muscles are cells! Most animal products are a source of protein, but so too are some vegetables, nuts and seeds.
In order to understand why protein is good for us we need to break it down… literally. If you took a protein and looked really closely you would find it was made from lots of different amino acids. When the body breaks down the right kind of protein it has a decent choice of amino acids that it can send all over your body.
Protein isn’t just for building muscle, but it certainly helps. Some proteins break down slower than others; some are great for muscle building; some are not so great. Check out just a few of these different types of protein found in today’s sport supplements:
Egg Albumin (Egg Whites)
Eggs have, for decades, been known as a good source of protein. The white contains no fat or carbs so delivers a pure amino acid punch providing everything your muscles need to build with.
Milk Protein Isolate
This is another source of high-quality protein. Often, sources of milk protein are used with a post-workout regimen to aid recovery.
Casein is often found in supplements. It takes a long time to break down which is a good thing when you want to keep your body anabolic, even at night. (We’ll come on to the terms Anabolic and Catabolic later.)
Whey isolates are absorbed very quickly by the body and because of this whey protein is one of the most popular types of supplement, especially for someone on a high-protein-low-carb diet. Whey isolates also replenish glycogen and aminos.
Whey concentrate delivers the same protein as the isolate but some find that it bloats them. That said Whey concentrate is the most popular beginner’s supplement.
Hydrolysate protein is a great supplement and one of the fastest acting. It is quickly absorbed into your muscle fibres and can be used before or after a workout.
While not the first choice of someone looking to build mass, soy is nevertheless a worthwhile supplement for those on a meat-free diet. If you’re not looking to bulk up but you want to stay conditioned, soy also helps muscle recovery and metabolism, which of course is one way to effectively (and healthily) lose weight.
What are your aims?
The million-dollar question, and it varies from person to person. What you hope to achieve from your visits to the gym effectively determines your protein intake.
How many grams of protein after a workout?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that your protein intake should be matched to your gender, age and general health, which is obvious really. If you want to stay conditioned but you’re not keen on body-building then you should be aiming for 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, or the equivalent of around 25 to 35 grams of protein per meal. We recommend that if you are looking to train 3+ times a week you need to aim for 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Is that amount of protein really going to help? Some think not. How much protein does your body really need to build muscle? And does the ‘When’ of taking your protein make a difference?
In truth, you don’t need to take on ridiculously high-levels of protein to build muscle. Aiming for something as substantial as 400 grams of protein a day, for example, is going to help to a degree, but it reaches the point of diminishing returns pretty quickly. Especially if your gym visits aren’t focused on heavy compound weight-lifting and even then, you’ll need to be doing that 4 – 6 times per week to see a benefit with such large quantities of protein.
It’s also going to have some nasty side-effects, and will likely make you feel bloated, sluggish and nauseated. Knowing exactly how much protein after workouts is about being clinical. It is about knowing what type is best, what works for your body and when is best to take it. Yes, your bulking does need a high protein diet but you don’t need to go crazy. And what’s even more important is that you look after the other parts of your body too.
In fact, the rule of thumb for most gym bunnies has always been around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, we’re already not far off the recognised optimum for body-building nutrition.
If we aim to take 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (rather than calculate it per kilogram of bodyweight), then this would lead to high levels of protein intake and increased satiety, so less necessity for large portions of food to be consumed – thereby allowing muscle growth but reduced caloric surplus.
To simplify this, you’d simply calculate your intake as 2.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. So, an 85kg man, for example, would aim to consume 187g of protein each day (2.2 x 85 = 187).
Types of protein sources
In terms of the types of protein we have seen, here’s a list of those considered the best for the serious builder:
- Beef protein: Fast absorption; 2/3 of the meat is put to good use in the body; great source of amino acids. One downside however, is that beef can often contain high quantities of fat, so intake should be monitored closely.
- Whey protein: by-product of cheese-making; absorbed quickly; almost all is put to use; another great amino acid stash; good for a lean build and weight loss.
- Egg protein: slow absorption (better long-term anabolic state); almost all of it is used by the body; contains great amino acids.
- Hemp protein: Not the illegal kind! Slow absorption; comes as powder and milk; good source of amino acids.
When is best to take supplements for bulking?
You can take certain fast-acting proteins like Whey before a workout as well as after. But there arise some great benefits to taking protein after a workout:
Nutrient timing is the key to success. Arguably, the best time to take-in nutrients is after a workout. Most people believe the “anabolic window of opportunity” which opens after you finished your routine is the best occasion for a protein celebration.
Your body is perfectly placed to absorb everything you take in. And if you’re taking in the right stuff you’re on winning streak. A protein meal is broken down quickly and taken straight to your muscles (which are most in need after a workout).
While you exercise, your body is in what is called a Catabolic state. In other words, it’s breaking down muscle proteins to feed itself. Effectively, during this period you’re using more protein than you’re taking in. And for as long as you leave it until you take on more goodies your body is going to stay in a catabolic state.
When you take on board fresh provisions, your body goes into what is called an Anabolic state. Fitness bods used to think that the anabolic window was very small, and shut easily within minutes of your final workout set. But some are now saying it could be longer than the previously thought 45 minutes.
As a safe bet you will want to take on board protein as soon as you can, and certainly no later than one hour after your workout session is complete.
Great protein foods for mass and general fitness
Some foods are higher in protein than others. Here are just a few protein-rich eatables that should be on the table of someone dedicated to their fitness. It’s important to be aware though that our foods, by their very nature, are not made entirely from protein, nor are some of the proteins in our food the most effective if you are a serious body-builder.
For example, although nuts are known to be high in protein, they also contain fats and oils, which although healthy are something to take into account if you want to lose excess fat by maintaining a calorie deficit.
Some meats containing the most protein are:
- Ground beef (lean)
- Turkey breast
And dairy or other foodstuffs include:
- Greek yoghurt
- Cottage cheese
- Eggs (especially the egg white)
- Peanut butter
Dos and don’ts of protein supplementation
A high protein diet is a good thing to follow if you want to build muscle. But as we have seen, you don’t need to go overboard. The right amount that rocks for you is probably a good rule of thumb, and taking in the good stuff at the right time after a workout is doubly effective.
And complementing your diet with protein supplements can be a great way of helping you stay on-track. Because, let’s be honest, very few of us have the time available to fix protein-rich meals and snacks three, four, five times a day. The option of quickly throwing some protein powder into a blender with milk and fruit, or grabbing a quick protein bar is a convenience most us gym-goers couldn’t do without!
That’s not to say that the other important stuff should be overlooked…
…After all, your body needs other components to function well, so even foods which may not be thought of as proteinaceous still contain the fats, carbs, vitamins, minerals and fibre you need to just get yourself out of bed. Check out SCI-MX’s DIET PRO™ MEAL for a balanced supplement of protein and nutrients. Feed your body well – results will show!
If you find you’re getting headaches, feeling constipated, bloated and/or sluggish, then chances are that your high protein diet is failing some other parts of your body. And be careful, because one of the biggest risks to your health of a high-protein-low-mineral diet is heart and kidney disease.
Keep it balanced, people.
When all is said and done, if you take on board plenty of fish, meat, dairy, and eggs at the right time, and keep a balanced diet through the day, you’ll have no issues with meeting your body’s protein needs.
For those vegans and vegetarians among you, hitting your protein requirements is going to be more difficult, but our awesome plant-based protein options will help you hit your targets with far greater ease.
What’s more, using our guide to target your needs with an appropriate protein intake after exercise ( during the anabolic window) will help you to discover buried abilities.
No matter what your goals are, knowing how much protein to take after workout in order to carve your body type into something you’re proud of will pay dividends in the long term.
Decide what you want to do with your body, make a plan, and keep a food diary