Protein Should Take For Workout

Of all the topics that spur epic online debates, post workout protein consumption might take the cake.

Carbohydrates and ketogenic diets are a close second but nothing enrages people like the “one scoop versus two scoop” argument.

 

OLD SCHOOL BELIEF

For a long time there was this idea that 30 grams was the perfect amount to consume after a workout because anything over that was wasted. But a few years ago some nerd in a lab coat told us 25 was the maximum effective amount (I can say this because I am a nerd with a lab coat. Seriously, I am wearing mine right now).

It was also believed that around 20 grams of whey was the amount needed to really get a “boost” in muscle protein synthesis post workout by protein ingestion. This is likely why you see most protein supplements that have servings in the 20-30 gram range with between 24-27 grams being the most popular.

The great part about science is that it learns and grows, always updating its “beliefs” about the world based upon new evidence. Fortunately for us, there has been a lot of research done on what is the optimal amount post-workout protein for muscle growth and recovery and we now have a much better answer!

 

A DAWNING OF A NEW ERA?

One of the most beautiful things about science is you can use experiments to answer hard questions; including what is the best amount of protein to consume after you get done slinging iron and getting your pump on.

Recently, a study from Dr. Tipton’s lab has brought forth new evidence to show that “two scooping it” may be more effective than “1 scooping it”.1 Before we get into the data I have to tell you that this pleases me because 2 scooping it makes shakes taste substantially better.

Ok, sorry for the digression, back to the science. Recently, a group of researchers (fellow white lab coat wearers) had a group of resistance trained individuals engage in a full body training protocol and then slam back one scoop (20 grams of whey protein) or 2 scoops (40 grams of whey protein).

When you break down the study in full it looks like there was a slightly higher level of muscle protein synthesis.

Related: 4 Post-Workout Nutrition Myths (That Are Actually Relevant)

The differences weren’t gigantic by any means and we don’t know whether or not this leads to bigger biceps 12-16 weeks down the line, but we can definitely say that it looks like from a “molecular biology” standpoint that 40 grams of protein results in higher protein creation immediately following a workout than 20 grams, so our old myth of 30 can die a nice, quiet, pseudoscientific death.

Now this study has caused a lot of “stirring” amongst the fitness media mob, but we really need to consider it in the context of decades worth of research and other data. Without getting too lost in the details we can look at the research as a whole and draw a few conclusions.

 

SPLIT TRAINING

Many of the studies showing that 20 or 30 grams appears to be the “upper” limit were often done in non-trained individuals or in “split” training style exercises. Generally speaking, these studies, due to their design, recruited less overall muscle mass and engaged in less overall volume than the recent study showing that the 40 grams appears to have a slight advantage.

Now we also have to look at the marginal increase that the 40 grams gave us over the 20 grams. It may be that the slight advantage results in meaningful long-term gains, or it might be that it doesn’t.

For now, the jury is still out but I think we can safely conclude from the past studies, and the most recent one, that the data suggests that the more muscle mass we recruit and the more volume of training we engage in, the more protein we can successfully utilize toward growing new muscle. Think of it like this figure.