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Post-Workout Nutrition – Protein Intake

July 13, 2011

This article is the first in a 2 Part series for Post-Workout Nutrition: Protein and Carbohydrate Intake

Protein Intake

This is perhaps the most exciting area to consider the timing of specific nutrients and certainly the most important in terms of achieving maximal muscle growth. It has been shown that if you workout and DO NOT consume protein, your body is NOT able to build extra muscle (Phillips 2005). It will however, preserve what muscle it already has, so if you are one of those people that love working out, but DO NOT want to add any more muscle simply DO NOT consume protein after your workout. You won’t gain muscle, I promise. Even if you consume carbohydrate recovery drinks (like juices or Gatorade) you will not be able to increase your muscle mass without the addition of protein (Bell 2005).

I get it, I get it … Take protein after your workout. I’ll head to the store and grab some now …

This is probably where most workout enthusiasts make the biggest mistake in terms of their protein supplement. Many people know they should take protein after their workouts, but what kind and how much? There are so many different brand names on the market all claiming that their mix builds the most muscle. They contain all sorts of different protein types: egg, casein, whey, soy, wheat, rice .. the list goes on and on. Beyond that they tout protein levels anywhere from 9 to 65 grams per serving (GNC). It is here that we also run in to the problem of the misinformed spreading false information. Walk into a gym and you will hear recommendations of “50 grams protein, bro, gotta be half whey – half casein mixed”, and then the meat-head next to him will say ” no way brah, 40 grams of straight whey” … soon after that the gym erupts into intense argument as all the automaton trainers spit their own “proven” take on post-workout protein supplementation that they read from some website/magazine by some bodybuilder/journalist. (No reference here, go try it yourself)

So clearly we cannot listen to  gymrats, bro’s or trainers and by reading all the suggestions of supplement companies, we have narrowed our protein intake down to somewhere between 9 and 65 grams of either egg, wheat, rice, whey, soy, and/or casein …

Which Protein is the Best “Whey” to Go?

Many studies have been conducted on the type of protein to ingest after workouts, and on the exterior, have unfortunately produced about as many different results as our previous informants (the gym-rats and supplement companies). However, when you look in-depth into the study protocols and designs, you begin to see the truth in terms of the optimal form of protein after a workout. One of my favorite studies was conducted by Tang JE,  Moore DR,  Kujbida GW,  Tarnopolsky MA, and Phillips SM. The study stands out from others because it was double-blind, used subjects that worked out consistently, controlled the entire diet of the subjects, used state of the art techniques and analysis methods, and was written and conducted by authors that are respected in the community. The protocol involved testing different protein types in equal amounts after workouts. The researchers ultimately determined that a whey protein BUILT MORE MUSCLE when taken after workouts than the other forms tested. These results agreed with several other studies showing the dominance of WHEY PROTEIN as a post workout supplement.

OK, Whey Protein It Is … But How Much?

Optimal protein intake after resistance training has been a major area of interest and debate. A very in-depth study by Moore et al in 2009 examined multiple protein intakes after resistance exercise and measured both the increase in protein synthesis (an indicator of muscle growth) and the rate of amino acid oxidation. Amino acid oxidation is a process by which excess amounts of amino acids, in this case coming from the consumption of whole proteins, are irreversibly lost. By comparing the protein synthesis increase and rate of amino acid oxidation, Moore and colleagues were able to determine what dose of protein would yield the most muscle growth without being in excess.  Six healthy active males were utilized in the study. They all had over four months of prior resistance training and volunteered for the study. They reported on five separate occasions, at least one week apart, to perform a workout session. After the session, each subject consumed a drink containing 0, 5, 10, 20, or 40 grams of protein. Measurements were collected over 4 hours after exercise. The results displayed that muscle protein synthesis increased in a dose dependent response to the amount of protein ingested and was maximized at 20 grams. Amino acid oxidation significantly increased after ingestion of the 20 g and 40 g drinks. The fact that muscle growth did not increase anymore beyond the 20 gram drink consumption, but amino acid oxidation did increase, provides evidence that protein intake beyond 20 grams is excessive and will not stimulate greater muscle growth than a 20 grams dose.

Piece of Cake … Nutrition

Consume 20 grams of a whey protein shake within ~30 minutes of your workout to maximize muscle growth. (soon to come – [link]benefits of whey protein and fat loss[/link])


Bell, Jill A. “Short-term insulin and nutritional energy provision do not stimulate muscle protein synthesis if blood amino acid availability decreases.” American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolilsm 289 (2005). OhioLink. Web. Fall 2009. <;.

GNC: Vitamins, Supplements, Minerals, Herbs, Sports Nutrition, Diet & Energy and More. Web. July 2011. <;.

Moore, D. R., M. J. Robinson, J. L. Fry, J. E. Tang, E. I. Glover, S. B. Wilkinson, T. Prior, M. A. Tarnopolsky, and S. M. Phillips. “Ingested Protein Dose Response of Muscle and Albumin Protein Synthesis after Resistance Exercise in Young Men.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89.1 (2008): 161-68. PubMed. Web. Fall 2010.

Phillips SM, Hartman JW, Wilkinson SB. “Dietary protein to support anabolism with resistance exercise in young men”. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Apr;24(2):134S-139S. OhioLink. Web. Fall 2009.

Tang JE,  Moore DR,  Kujbida GW,  Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM.Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men.J Appl Physiol 107: 987–992, 2009. PubMed. Web. Spring 2011

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2011 12:24 PM

    Another great one. Appreciate the detail on how much. I’m going to try to maintain that 20g target. Got any opinion on the carb aspect? Via a personal black box experiment I added a protein shake and a sweet potato in my 30min post workout window. This spring I saw the biggest size, strength gains since I started this program ~2 yrs ago.

    • July 14, 2011 10:25 PM

      Oh I promise you, I have an opinion on EVERYTHING lol. Personally I love carbs (both for the taste and physical benefits) That’s awesome that you saw such great results with the protein and sweet potatoes, definitely a potent combo. Next weeks write up will be on post workout carbohydrates so that will get a lil more indepth, but in short they do NOTHING for added muscle growth BUT do TONS of other things like replenishing your muscle energy stores (which effects your strength), helping you rehydrate, and adding to your total calorie intake (which indirectly effects muscle growth)..Thanks for reading and the comments.

  2. Steve Adamson permalink
    July 17, 2011 10:07 AM

    Great plain talk article Jake! I’ll start concentrating more on getting that 20 grams of protien after resistance workout.
    However, I try to iimit my calories to 1600 – 2000) a day for weight loss per doctors recommendation, & carb intake to 60-75 grams for 3 main meals & 15-30 grams for snacks between if meals if they are more than 4-5 hours apart, this according to diabetic nurse/nutritionist. I think I don’t think eat enough carbs some days thus resulting in my lower feeling of strength
    I find when I try to lift with some intensity my energy seems low & weak so I,m looking forward to your carbs article. Trying to find my balance between calories & carbs.

    • July 17, 2011 10:23 PM

      Hey, Uncle Steve. Thanks for the continued reading + the comments! Sounds like a pretty good plan. Was anything mentioned about the “types” of carbs in terms of # whole grains or # sugars or anything? … Just wondering out of curiosity. Yeah, I bet you’re right in terms of the lower carbs reducing your energy. Unfortunately, because of the whole concern with the blood sugar levels, I don’t know if my recommendations will match well with yours. Although, one of the people I’m interning under just let me borrow his text book on physical activity and diabetes risk. I’ll let you know if I find anything worth asking your RD about. Just a side note, if you look into herbal supplements, ginseng is a pretty popular seller for energy at GNC.


  1. Post Workout Nutrition: Carbohydrate Intake | CakeNutrition

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