No matter where you are in your fitness journey, or what your fitness goal is, protein is your friend. Diets that include a high protein intake have been known to increase lean body mass while improving body composition, recovery times after exercising, and the feeling of fullness.
However, simply loading up your plate with this macronutrient right after hitting the gym isn’t going to get you where you’re going any faster. Because each person’s body, lifestyle, forms of exercise, and energy needs are different, so is the amount of protein each person needs.
Below, we talk about how to best include protein in your diet to make the most of each workout. Plus we’ll give you the lowdown on some of our favourite protein-rich snacks to give you that big boost you’re looking for.
Do You Really Need Protein Right After a Workout?
If you’ve ever wondered “is protein after a workout necessary?” while gulping down another bland protein shake, you’ve probably heard about the anabolic window. This is thought to be the immediate period post-workout where the intake of carbs and protein best improve muscle protein synthesis. However, the majority of recent research shows that it is very much another gym myth.
While it is true that muscle protein activation will remain elevated for around 1-3 hours after resistance training, whether you consume protein 1 or 3 hours afterwards, the anabolic response will be the same. This is only effective if you have had a protein-rich meal within 3 hours prior to exercising. Snacking on protein throughout the day also helps keep blood sugar levels stable so you don’t binge on carbs and sweet stuff. Looks like you can stress less about what you eat post-gym after all.
When Should You Consume Protein for Optimal Fitness?
A good rule of thumb is to have a meal that contains around 30-45g of protein 3 hours before a workout, then complementing the workout with a protein-packed meal, snack, or supplement within 1-3 hours afterwards. Generally, consuming protein this way will be enough to stimulate the increase, repair, and growth of muscle cells.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
As mentioned earlier, each person’s body, lifestyle, fitness goals, forms of exercise, and energy needs are different, and so is the amount of protein each person needs. Exercise, and especially strength training, not only contributes to the building of muscle but also creates microscopic tears to existing muscle.
The dietary protein you consume gets broken down into amino acids needed for repair of these damages. Depending on your sources of protein, you may need more or less to reach the amount of amino acids that your body needs for optimal muscle building.
Did you know? The Jerky Co’s premium air dried jerky, beef biltong, and snap sticks have an average of 60 grams of protein and less than 2 grams of fat per 100 grams, so you don’t have to feel guilty snacking away between meals.
If your body doesn’t get the protein it needs, your muscles are not able to properly repair and grow, which then leads to inflammation and an increased risk of an exercise-related injury. Each person has different protein requirements so take the time to figure out how much your body is telling you it needs.
Sources of Protein
The great thing about protein is that it is found in a lot of food sources, so you can really get creative and mix it up. Here are some ideas for protein-rich meals and in-between snacks:
- Breakfast: Greek yoghurt with granola / veggie smoothie with protein powder
- Snack: Tuna and crackers / beef jerky and celery sticks
- Brunch: Egg, beef biltong, and tomato sandwich / almond milk with protein powder
- Snack: Eggplant hummus and carrot sticks / cheese and snap sticks
- Lunch: Stir-fried noodles with biltong / Thai-style chicken salad
- Snack: Fruit and nut trail mix / pork crackles and apple slices
- Dinner: Butternut squash soup with biltong / cayenne chicken with veggies
- Snack: Toast with nut butter / beef jerky
So the next time someone asks “is protein after a workout necessary?” you’ve got some quick facts up your sleeve. While protein is a great macronutrient that complements all sorts of fitness routines, maximising recovery post-workout while decreasing the chances of getting an injury, it is best consumed as part of a varied, balanced diet.
Choose from The Jerky Co’s sweet, sweet range of lamb and beef biltong, jerky, snap sticks, and pork crackles to toss into your gym bag for a high protein kick between meals. Heck, swap out that deli meat with some biltong if you fancy - we’ve got tons of recipe ideas to inspire your next protein-rich meal prep. The next time you get the craving for a snack, skip the chips and reach for one of The Jerky Co’s protein-packed, air dried treats to fuel your body instead.