When you exercise as part of a healthy weight loss regimen, you can’t prepare for the gym the same each time. Instead, you must consider what you will do at the gym to ensure you’re physically prepared for what’s to come. This means differentiating cardiovascular and strength training to ensure your body has what it needs and when it needs it to maximise your results.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the relationship between protein and strength training, what you should eat before a workout, and what to eat after a workout as well. Doing so will help you repair tissue, build lean muscle, and replenish glycogen stores lost during exercise.
Why Protein Matters for Weight Training
You’ve heard all your life that you need protein to build lean muscle. While you should aim to consume approximately 30 percent of your daily calories from protein for this purpose and others, it’s important to understand that it’s possible to consume too much of any macronutrient. Some research suggests those who are physically active don’t need excessive amounts of additional protein in their diet to repair and build muscle.
In fact, consuming too much protein can cause:
- Stress to Major Body Systems – Because the body cannot store protein like it can store carbohydrates or fat, excessive amounts of protein may place a heightened amount of stress on the body.
- Adverse Effects for Health-Related Goals – Eating more protein, meaning you will also consume more calories, without increasing physical activity will cause you to gain equal parts fat and muscle mass. You must lose fat to reveal the muscle beneath. As such, eating more protein without increasing physical activity won’t help you achieve any appearance or health-related goals.
- Correlation With Disease – Several studies have revealed a correlation between high protein diets and health risks such as kidney disease, prostate cancer, and diabetes.
With this in mind, it’s important to ensure that when you do consume protein, you’re consuming proper amounts for your weight and physical activity level/caloric needs. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended daily amount of protein is 0.36 grams for every 0.454 kg of body weight. As a less precise measure, protein should account for approximately 15 percent of your daily caloric intake. However, you should never use these calculations as a definitive guide because protein needs will vary from person-to-person, sometimes significantly.
Now that you know how much protein you should be eating, let’s discuss what sources of protein you should eat both before and after exercise to reap the full benefits your physical activity has to offer.
The Benefits of Consuming Protein Before Strength Training
There are several reasons why you should consume protein prior to strength training. The most important reasons include:
- Fuel a More Intense Workout – Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), are common in pre-workout supplements. Because BCAAs don’t need to be processed by your liver, they enter the bloodstream immediately and can be used by working muscles to prevent muscle breakdown.
- Increase Protein Synthesis – Rather than waiting until after your workout, adding protein before increases amino acid delivery and uptake by muscles during training. This further prevents muscle breakdown and encourages muscles to strengthen and grow.
- Burn More Calories – If you’re trying to lose weight and gain muscle, this is important. Protein consumed prior to a workout increases calorie burning up to 24 hours after a workout is complete.
- Longer-Term Muscle Synthesis – Consuming protein before working out elevates muscle synthesis for up to 3 hours after a workout is finished.
- Fat Burning – Consuming protein while glycogen stores in the body are low increases fat burning during high-intensity workouts.
However, this doesn’t mean you won’t need more than protein to fuel your strength training.
Before a Workout, You Need Both Protein and Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates and protein are both important macronutrients when you are preparing for strength training. However, you should aim to consume 75 percent protein and only 25 percent carbohydrates. This contrasts with the 100 percent carbohydrate meal recommended prior to cardio exercise. It’s best to consume protein between one and two hours prior to when you plan on working out.
Low GI carbs and protein-rich foods should remain your focus. Here are a few meal ideas you could eat before working out for strength training:
- Eggs or egg whites with spinach and a piece of whole grain toast
- A smoothie with protein powder, fruit, and flax seed
- Greek yogurt with nuts and fruit
- Lean meats with vegetables, beans, or whole grains like quinoa
- Fish with vegetables
After a Workout, Consuming Protein-Rich Food Within Two Hours is Key for Success
Once your workout is complete, protein and carbohydrates are also important. These nutrients:
- Help your muscles repair and heal after your workout
- Nourish the body with protein as you sleep, furthering repair and muscle synthesis
- Replenish glycogen stores throughout the body, giving you energy
Here are a few ideas of protein-rich foods you should focus on once your workout is complete:
- A protein shake with skim or soy milk and a banana
- Spinach salad (or another type of green) with lean meat, such as chicken
- Cottage cheese with avocado and tomato
Of course you may choose any whole foods source of nutrition after your workout is complete. This may include fish, eggs, turkey, low-fat milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and countless other options. It’s only important that you focus on combining protein with carbohydrates to ensure you don’t just have the protein you need for muscles but the energy stores to replenish your body as well.
Fuel Your Body With Protein and Carbohydrates for Muscle-Building Success
With the right, protein-rich sources and complementary carbohydrates, you can fuel your body for success in any strength training session. And, for even more fat burning and energy in the gym, you can supplement with PhenQ to improve results even further.
Provide your body with the right kind of fuel and it will perform. So, what are you going to reach for before your next strength training session?