Protein is one of the most important nutrients for fat loss. Protein helps curb your appetite by reducing levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, all while increasing levels of appetite-reducing hormones like glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), peptide YY (PYY) and cholecystokinin (CCK). This means consuming a protein-rich snack between meals may lead you to eat fewer calories later in the day!
One study found people who ate a high-protein yogurt snack during the afternoon ate 100 fewer calories at dinner, compared to those who ate crackers or chocolate as an afternoon snack. The yogurt, crackers and chocolate all provided the same number of calories.
To reap the most weight-loss benefits, aim to eat plenty of protein-rich foods throughout the day.
Consuming protein-rich snacks between meals is ideal for fat loss. It may help curb hunger, which could lead you to eat fewer calories later in the day.
In order to build muscle and strength, you need to consume more protein than your body breaks down naturally during resistance training or weight lifting.
The best time to consume protein for optimal muscle growth is a controversial topic.
Fitness enthusiasts often recommend taking a protein supplement 15–60 minutes after exercise. This time frame is known as the “anabolic window” and said to be the perfect time for getting the most out of nutrients like protein.
However, recent research has shown that this window is much larger than previously thought.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, consuming protein any time up to two hours after your workout is ideal for building muscle mass.
For the average person, resistance exercise and consuming sufficient protein are more important than timing protein intake. That said, people training in a fasted state, like before breakfast, may benefit from taking protein shortly after a workout, as they haven’t consumed protein in a while.
To build muscle, aim to consume protein within two hours after working out. People who train in a fasted state, like before breakfast, should ideally take protein right after working out.
Preventing Muscle Loss
Maintaining muscle mass is especially important as you grow older.
Research shows that people lose roughly 3% of their muscle mass each year after age 30. Sadly, losing muscle is linked to a higher risk of fractures and shorter lifespan.
Scientists recommend spreading protein intake evenly across the day to help prevent muscle loss with age. This means eating roughly 25–30 grams of protein per meal.
To help prevent muscle loss, aim to eat 25–30 grams of protein per meal. Taking a protein supplement at meals during which you consume less protein, such as breakfast, can help spread your intake over the day.
Exercise Performance and Recovery
Athletes often wonder when they should take protein for performance and recovery.
For endurance training, combining protein with a source of carbs during and after exercise may improve performance and recovery and reduce soreness.
For example, a study of 11 cyclists found that taking a protein and carb beverage during training improved recovery and reduced muscle soreness, compared to a placebo.
For resistance training, protein can help improve both performance and recovery, whether or not it’s consumed with carbs.
For most people, eating enough protein is more important than timing protein intake. However, athletes partaking in resistance training can benefit from taking protein either immediately before or after a workout.
Endurance athletes may see improved performance and recovery from taking protein with a source of carbs during and after exercise. Resistance-training athletes can benefit from taking protein either immediately before or after a workout.