Does protein timing matter for muscle growth?

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Muscle Building

Estimated reading time: 4mins

Does protein timing matter for muscle growth?

The thirty-minute anabolic window after training

One of the popular notions is that there's a 30-minute anabolic window after training, whereby you must consume adequate protein to ensure maximal muscle gains.

But it's just not true.

This is one way that "protein timing" is thought to be important.

But in this context, it isn't.

The truth is, your muscles want protein at this point and protein synthesis peaks after training, but the anabolic window is more like four to six hours.

So protein timing matters in the context of needing it four to six hours after training, but that's very different to needing it within 30 minutes after!

Most people would easily get their hands on a protein-rich meal within four to six hours of training, so this isn't much of an issue at all.

Training in a fasted state for muscle growth

The other context in which protein timing matters is ensuring you don't train in a fasted state.

So a protein shake ahead of a gym workout is critical for maximal muscle growth, because muscle protein breakdown increases during fasted exercise, and persists even after training!

Don't train fasted, always consume protein first for optimal muscle growth!
Don't train fasted, always consume protein first for optimal muscle growth!

This can spell disasters for your muscle gains. That's why protein shakes are recommended ahead of training so we can switch from a catabolic (muscle wasting state) to an anabolic (muscle growth state). And doing this, as scientists put it:

"Over a chronic period, this tactic could conceivably lead cumulatively to an increased rate of gains in muscle mass."

Distribution of protein daily for more muscle growth

The other component of protein timing is making sure you get it at every meal consistently (every 5-6 hours might be ideal according to research).

What research shows isn't ideal, is consuming the bulk of your protein towards the end of the day.

The aforementioned study examined the following:

Even protein distribution: Breakfast: ~31 grams Lunch: ~30 grams Dinner: ~33 grams

Skewed protein distribution: Breakfast: ~11 grams Lunch: ~16 grams Dinner: ~63 grams 

The authors concluded:

"The consumption of a moderate amount of protein at each meal stimulated 24-h muscle protein synthesis more effectively than skewing protein intake toward the evening meal."

Make sure your protein is evenly distributed throughout the day!
Make sure your protein is evenly distributed throughout the day!

How much protein do we need for muscle growth?

Research shows we need around 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

So, if Bulk Nutrients customer Michael weighs 80 kilograms, he'd need 128 grams of protein per day.

Given the research findings, we'd recommend Michael consume it in the following way:

Breakfast: 32 grams of protein

Lunch: 32 grams of protein

Dinner: 32 grams of protein

Before bed: 32 grams of protein

Total: 128 grams

Getting protein easier with protein powder

The beauty of a whey protein powder supplement is that you can achieve 30-40 grams of protein with ease, without cooking or inconvenient measures.

And we've got you covered with our whey protein options!

Bulk nutrients WPC: plenty of flavours for a convenient hit of protein!
Bulk nutrients WPC: plenty of flavours for a convenient hit of protein!

The bottom line is that protein timing doesn't matter in the context of 30 minutes after training, or during the "anabolic window" as it is often referred to. The "anabolic window" is more like four to six hours, and we should consume protein after this time has elapsed.

Moreover, training fasted is NOT advised, and protein timing in the sense that we consume it before training is important. We should also not backload the bulk of our protein at the end of the day but spread it evenly throughout. It's critical we get about 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, and we can make it easier for ourselves by consuming it in the convenient form of whey protein powder.

References:

  1. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):5. Published 2013 Jan 29. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-5 
  2. Kumar V, Atherton P, Smith K, Rennie MJ. Human muscle protein synthesis and breakdown during and after exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2009;106(6):2026–39. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.91481.2008. 
  3. Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL, Arentson-Lantz E, Sheffield-Moore M, Layman DK, Paddon-Jones D. Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):876-80. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.185280. Epub 2014 Jan 29. PMID: 24477298; PMCID: PMC4018950. 
  4. Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct. 2016 Mar;7(3):1251-65. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01530h. PMID: 26797090. 
group of product images for proteins
group of product images for proteins