Protein Before or After a Workout | Which Is Better for Building Muscle?

AdobeStock 221653396 Protein Before or After a Workout | Which Is Better for Building Muscle?

Protein bars, protein shakes, water with amino acids – the hype about optimal protein intake continues to grow in importance. But when is the perfect time for protein intake: Protein Before or After a Workout | Which Is Better for Building Muscle?

Protein is one of the three most important macronutrients and is mainly responsible for optimal muscle regeneration after exercise and for building muscle.

But when is the best time to take in proteins to precisely support muscle building – before or after training? 

The following should be taken into account in advance: The ideal sports nutrition and protein intake depends on your personal athletic goal – do you just want to be fit and athletic or gain muscle mass?

How much protein do you need?

The pubmed national library of medical (NIH) recommends a daily protein intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults in order not to suffer from a protein deficiency. In sum: 57 to 67 grams of protein per day.

That means: With this minimum health recommendation, no muscle mass can be built up. The reference value applies to untrained people.

Those who rely on intensive strength training to build muscle, or who spend themselves several times a week in endurance training such as intensive jogging or a HIIT workout, have about twice as high a protein requirement.

Here the reference values ​​for the daily protein intake are 1.8 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. But only when it comes to absolute mass gain.

Well-trained athletes already need 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to achieve defined muscles.

Excess protein that can no longer be absorbed by the body is excreted.

Proteins: before or after exercise?

So far there is only one scientific study that has examined and compared the effects of protein before or after training. In this study, the researchers divided 21 men into two groups, each of whom they gave a shake containing 25 g of protein.

One group drank the protein shake before, the other after training. All subjects were trained on the same number of days according to the same training plan.

Result: The scientists did not observe any significant differences between the two groups.

Conversely, this means that it is not particularly important whether you consume proteins, such as a protein bar or protein shake, before or after your workout.

From a nutritional point of view, however, it can be assumed that the muscle cells are more receptive to the energy supply in the form of proteins after training, since they regenerate, have the urge to form new cells, and are strengthened.

The most crucial and most important facts for building muscle: The total amount of protein that you take in during the day and the length of time – that is, how many minutes or hours before and after training you consume protein.

Anabolic time frame: protein intake after exercise

After intensive training, the muscles are particularly receptive to new energy and protein supplies. The glycogen stores are empty, the muscle fibers have been heavily stressed and long for regeneration.

The anabolic window says that the muscles soak up the supplied proteins like a sponge during this period.

How long is the anabolic window?

Studies have found that the optimal time window for protein intake after exercise is much larger than previously thought.

In the past, the 30-minute rule of consuming protein within the first 30 minutes of your workout was recommended to make progress.

However, the two American researchers Alan Albert Aragon and Brad Jon Schoenfeld recognized that it is sufficient to eat or drink high-quality protein between two to three hours after the workout.

The best combination for a post-workout meal: high quality protein and good carbohydrates. Especially if you want to build muscle mass, you should definitely rely on carbohydrates after exercise, so that muscle loss is prevented.

Protein-rich diet after exercise

Whey protein shakes are particularly suitable as quickly available protein. Whey is a high quality whey protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. It is easy to digest and provides the body with energy in a very short time.

But many foods are also good sources of protein.

Perfect vegetable sources of protein are:

  • tofu
  • Hemp seeds
  • linseed
  • Soy flakes
  • broccoli
  • Edamame
  • Legumes like lentils and kidney beans
  • Nuts, especially peanuts and almonds

Good sources of animal protein are, for example:

  • beef
  • poultry
  • lamb
  • Fish, especially tuna, trout, and saithe
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products such as cottage cheese, Harz cheese, and low-fat quark
  • Which protein intake is suitable before training?
  • If you want to build muscle mass, you should have a small pre-workout snack before training, which is also a combination of carbohydrates and protein.
  • These combinations are suitable, for example, homemade banana puree with soy flakes and peanut puree, low-fat quark with berries and almonds or, if you don’t have the time, a protein bar “to go”.
  • But be careful: protein shakes right before training are not very advisable. The shake could be heavy in the stomach and negatively affect training.


  • According to the DGE recommendation, 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is sufficient to build up muscle mass (defined muscles). To withstand intense strength training or to build up a lot of muscle mass (bodybuilding), a daily protein intake of between 1.8 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended.
  • It doesn’t make a significant difference to muscle building whether you consume protein before or after your workout.
  • Decisive for building muscle is the total amount of protein per day, the anabolic window of two to three hours, and the meal combination of high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates.
  • It is important to know that carbohydrates are very important for building muscle, especially after exercise. The glycogen stored in the muscle cells are then empty.
  • If these are not topped up with a protein-carbohydrate mix, the body would get the energy it needs for regeneration from the muscle mass.
  • That means: Instead of building muscles, you tend to lose mass and the intensive strength training was pointless.
  • In addition, carbohydrates ensure that insulin is released. The insulin in turn has an anabolic effect and thus pushes muscle building.
  • Building muscle costs energy: If you do not eat enough during the day and do not have an energy surplus of 300 to 500 calories per day, you will not gain muscle mass.
  • Experts estimate that the body needs 2300-3600 calories to develop 500 grams of muscle mass.
  • Important: The appropriate training is a basic requirement, otherwise the excess energy will be converted into fat deposits.

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