Best time to Consume Protein?
Does Protein Timing Maximize Strength and Hypertrophy?
There’s no question that adequate protein intake is essential for building and strengthening muscle tissue. But, is timing of protein intake important for maximizing these gains? Experts don’t always agree on the question of whether hypertrophy and strength can be affected by precise timing of protein (before, during, or after training).
The results of studies have been mixed.
In 2013 a group of sports science researchers gathered the best existing research on this common question. They conducted a meta-analysis of over 40 studies involving hundreds of participants to determine if timing protein intake has any effect on strength and hypertrophy.
Studies Involved in the Meta-Analysis
The researchers chose a variety of studies to analyze based on specific requirements. These requirements included:
- Randomized with control groups.
- At least one treatment and one control group.
- Treatment groups consuming a significant amount of protein an hour before, or after, a workout.
- Measurable outcomes of strength or hypertrophy compared between both groups.
Conclusions on Protein Timing
The authors found a significant effect of protein intake on hypertrophy and strength, but only when using a simple analysis that did not control for important variables, like the resistance training experience level of the participants.
When the authors did control for several variables, they found that there was no evidence that consuming protein within an hour before or after a workout caused any gains in hypertrophy or strength when compared to control groups. Based on their results, the authors made these conclusions:
- Existing evidence does not support pre- or post- workout protein consumption for hypertrophy or strength gains.
- Total protein intake promotes gains in hypertrophy.
- Gains found in hypertrophy or strength (with protein timing) are likely due to increases in total protein consumption.
- There may be benefits to protein timing, but not conclusively at this time.
The researchers suggest more studies are needed to control for more variables in participants (age, training experience, total protein intake, etc.) to better assess the effects of protein timing.
How to Coach Clients on Protein Intake and Timing
You know protein timing is still an unanswered question, so how do you advise your clients? Here are tips to keep in mind:
- Nutrition advice should take into consideration client’s body fat percentage, daily activity level, and caloric ratio (protein, carbohydrates, and fat needs).
- Resistance athletes require no more than 1.2 - 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight per day for muscle repair and 0.5 and 1.0 g of carbs per kilogram of body weight before and after workouts.
- For moderately to extremely active athletes, more protein—2 to 3 g per kg of body weight per day—and carbs are needed.
- Always advise your clients to seek professional recommendations from a nutritionist or physician before dieting.
- Warn clients about the risks of consuming too much protein and that long-term over-consumption can sabotage health.
- Remind clients to be wary of fad diets and marketing hype.
- Suggest clients keep a daily food journal to track eating habits and their impact on goals.
The ISSA recommends 1.0 - 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight as a general guideline for daily protein needs. Further, this number should be higher for more active clients.
When clients ask, “How much protein do I need?” can you answer? What about explaining the role protein plays in weight loss and muscle growth? Learn how to give clients what they want and need to know in the world of protein intake here.
For the first time here at the ISSA, we’ve decided to do a follow-up article addressing the best questions we received in our comments section and on our social media platforms. We received many great responses to the “Protein Myths” article that we published not too long ago, and along with that response, more great questions surfaced that we wanted to answer in more depth.
As a personal trainer, you already carry a TON of responsibility on your shoulders. You're accountable for safely guiding your clients through the fitness and lifestyle protocols that will help them achieve the results they’re paying you good money for....