A diet with a good balance of macronutrients is essential!
Often, we wonder what’s the best time of the day to take one of the most important macronutrients we should ingest, especially if we think about gaining muscle mass.
Yes, we’re talking about the same thing you’re thinking about, protein.
The amount of protein we take is important and varies from person to person, as you could see in the blog article.
But is the moment when you take it also important?
Well, in this article I’ll describe all this in detail, I’ll explain it in the easiest way, so you’ll find out if there is, or isn’t, a “best time to take protein” and why protein is important for athletes.
Why is protein essential for athletes?
All macronutrients are important for athletes.
But protein deserves special attention, especially when the goal is to build and recover muscle tissue, in which protein plays a key role.
A person shouldn’t be in a constant state of catabolism (destruction of muscle tissue), so you need to give the body the amount of protein it needs to be able to repair all the tissue damaged and to continue to build muscle mass, reaching the anabolism state.
For a person who exercises, the protein needs are greater than those who are sedentary.
This is already clear, so, if we don’t ingest the right amount of protein, our body will take them from non-vital tissues such as muscle mass, thereby causing muscle breakdown that will directly affect our strength, endurance and overall performance.
In addition to food protein sources, protein supplement shakes will help you to reach the required amount of protein in an easy and convenient way.
Besides being concentrated in protein, they will help you to avoid the inconvenience of some food protein sources, such as the excessive amount of fat in some foods, and they have a pleasant taste, they’re convenient, and help you to meet your needs wherever you are at different times of the day.
But what’s the best time to take protein?
Is there an ideal moment to take protein?
Some key moments for protein consumption are the moments close to your training. But there are other moments.
I will highlight 4 different moments: after training, before training, after waking up, before going to sleep.
Several studies reveal that there is a so-called “anabolic window”, during which you should take your protein shake, within a maximum of 1 hour, for your body to absorb the protein and to recover from training.
According to the study by Biolo, Tipton and Wolfe:
“Our results imply that protein intake immediately after exercise may be more anabolic than when ingested at some later time.”
After training, the destruction and, at the same time, synthesis of proteins, as well as the destruction of muscle tissue, stay high.
Although there are other studies that reveal that the “anabolic window” does not exist, because simply with your daily protein intake you would have covered the appropriate percentages to continue to repair the damaged tissues and to build muscle mass, giving the body the nutrients needed to recover (to take advantage of the described situations) is essential.
Consuming protein before training will help us to build more muscle, given that the plasma amino acid levels (building blocks of protein) will increase, and therefore simply the synthesis of proteins will help us to build that muscle so it can keep growing.
This will give your body what it needs.
Consuming protein before exercise will provide you with enough amino acids to avoid excessive destruction of muscle post-workout, making the protein consumption immediately after training less urgent.
So, which protein to consume before training?
A scientific study proved that a protein that’s digested faster and has high levels of Leucine, which is an amino acid that promotes protein synthesis and is considered one of the most important in this process, will help the growth of muscle mass.
So, the most indicated would be whey protein, since we digest it faster, allowing our body to use it more quickly, and it also has high levels of leucine that will help us to build muscle mass.
Consuming a protein that’s easily digested will also help you to prevent a “stuffed” feeling during training, so it avoids causing you discomfort.
Whey protein can also be a good option immediately after training.
After waking up
When you sleep, your body spends many hours “private” with nutrients that are essential for its functioning.
That’s why the best way to start the day, is with a breakfast balanced in macronutrients.
A breakfast rich in protein will help your body to have at its disposal the energy of the amino acids it needs throughout the day to do its job, such as building muscle.
Furthermore, studies revealed that a breakfast rich in protein even has other benefits:
“(…) might be a useful strategy to improve satiety, reduce food motivation and reward, and improve diet quality (…).”
Before going to sleep
Sleep is one of the most important moments for the regeneration of the body and the muscle tissue, in addition it allows to synthesize important hormones for the process of muscle building and it will “recharge batteries” for the next day.
Even while sleeping, the body continues in constant operation. To ensure that it functions well, you need to give it essential nutrients before sleeping.
If your body doesn’t have satisfactory and sufficient energy levels, it will use anything it can get to continue to function, for example, stealing amino acids from the protein that’s present in our muscles and converting them into fuel.
According to the article “Consumo de proteína antes de dormir: su potencial para optimizar la recuperación post-ejercicio”:
“So, dietary protein consumption before sleep can represent an effective dietary strategy to inhibit the degradation of muscle protein, to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, to facilitate the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to exercise and to improve the effectiveness of the training.”
Therefore, it’s advisable to take protein during this period. Casein is a better option than whey because its digestion and absorption rates are much slower.
This way, casein gives the body a slow and persistent supply of amino acids for several hours.
As you could see, in science there’s no consensus. All the mentioned moments have their advantages, so it’s hard to say what the best time is.
A fact: regardless of the time of day, protein consumption is very important.
The calculation of personal needs also plays a very important role.
Studies prove that the gradual consumption of protein stimulates the synthesis of protein for 24 hours, so I recommend calculating the percentage of protein that you should ingest per day and take it in several shots throughout the day to make sure you cover it properly.
Protein must be ingested spread out over the day, to facilitate its digestion and use. I’ve mentioned whey protein and casein, but there are many more options that you can check out here.
However, although protein has been the macronutrient mentioned in this article, we must not forget about fats and carbohydrates.
They play a very important role in the process of building muscle, in addition to being important sources of energy, they facilitate the absorption of nutrients.