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?

  • 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, 2011 at 7:16
  • also read: fitness.stackexchange.com/a/611/692
    – claws
    Aug 21, 2014 at 22:36

6 Answers 6


The idea that the most apt time to eat protein is right after a training session has no 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 on average over a period. 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 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.

  • 1
    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, 2011 at 19:04
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    I'd love to see a quote or a info link here.
    – Dave
    Mar 28, 2011 at 19:14
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    His bodybuilding advice came from an era when bodybuilding steroids were rampant (and for a brief period, legal), there is absolutely no comparison to a natural athlete's response. And there is truth to the need for carbs post workout, due to glycogen, that is well supported in scientific literature. Carbs = more important than protein after the workout. Apr 6, 2011 at 17:14
  • 9
    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 Aug 31, 2011 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, 2011 at 16:47

I've been lifting for years. As a 46 year old 135lb female I was just taking in about 80 grams a day roughly. I did one 32 gram shake after my workout and then just ate whatever. I notice a plateau in my gains and getting weak shortly into my lifts so I added quite abit more protein, I'm up to my body weight in grams and it does seem to be helping already and its only been a couple weeks. My lifts are stronger and I'm seeing slightly more definition. Keep in mind too, its what else you are eating- are you getting enough fruits/veggies? Whole grains? The whole diet needs to be good, can't just gulp down protein supps all day and expect great results. Its worth the effort to pay attention to diet. After all you're working your butt off in the gym, finish it by truly feeding your body what it needs. Just from my own experience I'm thinking your body weight is grams of protein is essential.

  • Great answer annie, welcome to fitness.stackexchange.com.
    – Eric
    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:16

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.


Michael Matthews' quintessential work "Bigger, Leaner, Stronger" suggests between 1g/lb LBW and 1g/lb total weight per day. Jeff Nippard (YouTube fitness celeb) suggests somewhere within 0.75g-1.25g/lb total weight per day. Neither are scientists but both voraciously read scientific articles and have tons of references.

The suggestion above of 0.8g/lb total weight falls within these constraints.


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.

  • 4
    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. Sep 21, 2011 at 2:21
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    I believe they are saying .8 grams / lb, not 8 grams / lb.
    – user5772
    May 5, 2013 at 9:46

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.

  • 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, 2012 at 11:08
  • @Baarn: Bob wrote ".8g/lb", not 8. Mar 13, 2016 at 8:41

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