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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?

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interesting... I wanna know the truth too... :( some people say the best time to eat more protein is on off-days 'cause it's when your muscles grow. –  Owen Mar 28 '11 at 7:16
    
also read: fitness.stackexchange.com/a/611/692 –  claws Aug 21 at 22:36

4 Answers 4

up vote 22 down vote accepted

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 find the most inexpensive form of usable 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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The advice of eating protein after a workout is not only from protein shake manufacturers. I read it in Arnold's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, which was written before high tech protein shakes became mainstream. He even talks about the recipes for his homemade natural protein shakes because he couldn't find anything from health stores. Arnold says that when the muscles are in a broken state, their need for protein increases. Not only does he recommend eating protein after the workout, but also to eat carbs so that your body does not fallback to protein as an energy source. –  JoJo Mar 28 '11 at 19:04
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I'd love to see a quote or a info link here. –  Dave Mar 28 '11 at 19:14
    
I do remember reading in a few places that you do need to replenish your glycogen immediately after a workout so your muscles don't cannibalize themselves. –  Salsero69 Mar 28 '11 at 21:08
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Protein right after a workout has some scientific backing. Like all exercise science, it's inexact, but: "[A] McMaster University [study] compared the impact of taking a single large dose of whey protein (25 g) immediately after exercise versus taking 10 smaller doses (2.5 g) over a period of time... Researchers found that when men took the 25 grams of whey protein immediately after they exercised, they had a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis than they did when they took the smaller doses." Source –  Dave Liepmann Aug 31 '11 at 19:08
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Might also be good to link to your answer here: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/595/… –  Jedidja Nov 11 '11 at 16:47

I think as long as you eat three regular meals and actually worry about pushing yourself during PT eater than worrying about how much protein you need to drink you will quickly realize that the body takes care of itself and doesn't need as much as you think it might to build muscle And be strong. I'm a firm believer that you can naturally eat healthy and attain muscle mass without being swayed by muscle magazines to buy a ton of powder supplements to spew into your system. A little dedication and tenacity will take you a long way.

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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.

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It would help if you tell where you got your numbers from, 8g/lb seem rather extreme, unless you want to sell shakes. –  Baarn Sep 29 '12 at 11:08

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.

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0.8g protein per pound of BW is certainly not unheard of. T-Nation espouses 1g/lb BW (and at a minimum, 0.5g) for bodybuilding. It's common to hear lifters recommend 1g per pound of bodyweight as a minimum intake: see here, and here. Warning: it's anecdotal, like a lot of lifting advice. –  Dave Liepmann Sep 21 '11 at 2:21
    
+1 for the warning that @DaveLiepmann includes in his comment :) –  Jedidja Nov 11 '11 at 16:46
    
I believe they are saying .8 grams / lb, not 8 grams / lb. –  user5772 May 5 '13 at 9:46

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