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Is timing important for protein?

When you eat protein is actually just as important as how much protein you eat. Because we can only store so much protein at any given time, you cannot simply eat a 16-ounce steak for breakfast and be done with it. The body needs its amino acid pool to be continually replenished and so you should aim to consume moderate amounts of protein at regular intervals throughout the day.

You should also try to time your protein intake around any exercise. During and immediately after resistance exercise and weight training, the rate of protein breakdown in your body will exceed the rate of protein synthesis resulting in a negative protein balance. With a negative protein balance, your body drops into a short-term wasting or catabolic state where your muscles are broken down for energy which in turn can lower your resting metabolic rate.

To prevent this, you should increase your protein and amino acid immediately after exercise to provide a positive protein balance which will also help your muscles repair and rebuild. Ideally, you want to try and eat protein at the following times:

  • Breakfast: Protein is an essential start to your day. Even if you’re not a breakfast person, you need to get some protein first thing as this will prevent your body from breaking down your own muscle for energy as you get started with your day.

  • Before a workout: About 90 to 120 minutes before training, you should try to eat or drink some protein (and add some carbs for energy) to provide fuel for your body during exercise. You should avoid fat as this will slow your digestion and delay the nutrients from getting to your working muscles.

  • After a workout: You want to eat or drink some protein as soon as possible so that the amino acids can get to work repairing your muscles and preventing further muscle breakdown for energy. You should also try and include some carbs to replenish your energy levels and avoid eating fat for the reasons given above. After about an hour, try to have a real-food meal that includes all three macros (protein, fat and carbs).

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