I'm aware that eating protein is important on the day of your weight lifting session. The most important time to eat protein is right after the session. But I've never heard advice on when to eat and how much protein to eat on off-days. How quickly does your muscle's need for protein diminish over time? My guess is that the 1-2 hours right after the weight lifting are crucial. Then the night of sleep uses moderate amounts. Then on the next day (the off day), you need minimal amounts of protein. Is this correct?
Actually, the idea that the most important time to eat protein is right after a training session has not real scientific validity. It's a great marketing claim used by shake manufacturers to impress upon you the need to buy their convenience powders. Your body does not suddenly start building muscle immediately after a workout. Protein metabolism is a very well studied process and it happens over a period of days after your training. In fact, your body goes through a diurnal cycle that involves period of net anabolic and catabolic activity.
Therefore, the importance of protein is not the timing of after a workout or even on "off days" but rather on average over a period of time. I wouldn't complicate your nutrition trying to time it specially on on or off days because you don't really know when the "on day" is for your recovery. So you need a steady stream of quality protein every day, and there is no need to spike it at certain periods. Excess protein in a short period of time simply gets converted to sugars and burned as fats, albeit through a highly inefficient metabolic pathway that has the net effect of slightly raising your metabolism.
Most of the "requirements" for protein are overblown as well. This is a two-part whammy, one from the supplement industry again trying to sell protein and two from the bodybuilding industry where anabolic steroids do in fact increase the body's capacity to process protein ... unfortunately, it just doesn't work the same way for natural athletes. While it may come as a shocker because all of the "advice" forums tell you that you need 1 - 2 grams your body weight in protein per day, the truth is that Dr. Peter Lemon conducted intensive research on the protein requirements of both sedentary and athletic individuals and found that there is no benefit of added protein above 1.5 - 2.0 grams per KILOGRAM of body weight, or about 0.8 grams per pound. The World Health Organization has also researched this ad nauseum in the effort to protein the most inexpensive form of useable protein to fight starvation. Most of the "high protein" and "protein after workout" advice comes from paid endorsements and studies funded by the companies promoting the product.
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Jeremy says 0.8 grams of protein is OK for body builders. That would be 185 grams for 231 pounds. That is higher than anything I have ever seen for body builders. Am I reading it incorrectly? There is certainly nothing wrong with timing your carbs for energy and your protein after your workout. Just don't starve yourself of protein at any time, or you will catabolize your own muscles.
Protein powder, purchased at a good price, is competitive with other foods and has less fat than most sources. Lentils and other beans or combination foods, eggs etc. are also inexpensive. Peanut butter and whole wheat bread with a glass of low fat milk is about as good as you can get. Beans and rice form a perfect protein. Brown rice is whole grain and has more fiber and nutrients.
Running a protein deficiency leaves the body sluggish.
Typically serious bodybuilders and athletes burn some thousand(s) of calories. The less trained bodybuilders and athletes may do a pretty lazy one-two hour session that burns at least 500 but less than a thousand calories.
Obviously the caloric needs increase. The protein should be replaced too but this is more easily missed. One giant candy bar can make up for the former and recharge the body -- leaving an impression of recovery -- but masking an accrual in protein deficiency.
Eventually, any experienced bodybuilder / athlete will note feeling sluggish, lackadaisical and fatigued. An "off week" is usually taken and, following from enough eating and inactivity, the protein deficiency is eliminated.
The body soon recovers. .8 grams / lb is insufficient for heavy anabolic sports. Dr Peter Lemon's own published slides show significantly increased protein synthesis with 1 grams / lb. Popular anecdote agrees.