I'm all for getting a little more protein in your diet, but enough is enough with some of the 40 and 50 gram protein shakes that you can buy in nutrition centers.
Do you really need that much protein after you exercise?
Of course not. In fact, you only need a fraction of that to help repair your muscles.
As you might know, resistance training causes muscle breakdown, and to repair our muscles over the course of the following days, we need amino acids from protein.
But muscle building magazines have taken this info to extremes, and so-called experts (read: guys that take wicked amounts of steroids) are recommending extreme protein intakes of 200 grams per day and over 50 grams of protein per meal (a normal sized chicken breast contains about 35 grams of protein, a single egg contains 7 grams of protein).
According to researchers from my alma mater, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, we only need to consume a moderate amount of protein after exercise in order to begin the rebuilding process.
Am J Clin Nutr 89: 161-168, 2009.
Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men1,2,3
Daniel R Moore, Meghann J Robinson, Jessica L Fry, Jason E Tang, Elisa I Glover, Sarah B Wilkinson, Todd Prior, Mark A Tarnopolsky and Stuart M Phillips
The scientists put six young men through an intense leg workout. Each subject did this on five seperate occasions and received 0, 5, 10, 20, or 40 grams of whole egg protein after the workout.
The results found that the 20 gram protein dose caused maximum muscle protein synthesis, and that consuming any more than 20 grams simply caused the body to take the protein and use it for energy (just as it uses carbohydrates and fat) and part of the amino acids get excreted in urine.
So when you consume excessive amounts of protein, whatever you don't need literally gets flushed away. Eating more protein than you need can NOT force your muscles to repair and rebuild faster.
Look at this "Factory Worker Analogy"
In fact, you should look at it this way. Imagine your muscles are a factory and the amino acids delivered to your muscles are parts. Inside the factory are little workers building more muscle, but the factory has a limited rate of production.
So it doesn't matter how many extra parts get delivered, those little muscle-factory workers can only work so hard and so fast, and so those excess parts can only just sit there...and eventually get removed by the factory's clean-up crew and turned into waste.
And if the factory is paying a pretty penny for those parts, it's just a waste of money too.
Personally, I simply grab a 500mL carton of chocolate milk after each workout (delivering 18 grams of protein) to start the recovery process.
However, if you want to lose fat, you don't need that much sugar, so you could simply consume a 20 gram protein shake or simply eat a regular meal after training that contains 20 grams of protein. That will help you start the repair and rebuilding process after your workout.
So to all my meathead friends out there...
You never need to drink another protein shake again,
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS