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Protein Timing Explained For Coaches

What is Protein Timing?

Protein timing is the strategic consumption of protein around workout sessions to maximize muscle recovery and growth. For example, as a coach, you might advise a client to get 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight approximately two hours before training or around an hour after.

Doing so would provide the body with essential amino acids that support muscle protein synthesis to limit muscle breakdown during and after training. 

Does Protein Timing Matter?

Protein timing’s importance has been a hot topic for a long time, with opinions on both sides of the argument. However, according to Brad Schoenfeld and other notable researchers in the field of muscular hypertrophy, the actual benefits are not that significant. 

Total protein intake matters most, and protein distribution is a close second. Here’s what the data suggests:

  • Total protein intake – aim for 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram or 0.7 to 1 gram per pound (Stuart M. Phillips et al., 2018)
  • Protein distribution – get 0.4 to 0.55 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight at least four times per day to cover the 1.6-2.2 grams/kg; this is approximately 0.18 to 0.25 grams per pound (Schoenfeld and Aragon, 2018)

As long as trainees meet these requirements, timing their protein intake before and after workouts will likely not make a difference; it will only come down to practicality. 

But What About the ‘Anabolic Window’?

As a coach, you might feel obligated to tell your clients to eat protein as soon as they finish training. This is by no means bad advice, but here are a couple of things to remember:

  1. The anabolic window is not nearly as narrow as people have claimed before. Not eating protein immediately after training won’t cause people to lose out on gains, especially if their total protein intake and distribution are on point. As noted in one paper by Schoenfeld, “..muscles are sensitized to protein intake for at least 24 hours after a training bout.”
  2. How quickly a trainee needs to get protein post-workout depends on the size and timing of their pre-workout meal. Trainees who eat a solid pre-workout meal don’t have to worry about protein after their session. However, post-workout protein intake becomes crucial if they’ve had their meal 4-6 hours before training or are fasted.

    Ideally, trainees will get 0.4-0.55 grams of protein/kg (0.18-0.25 grams/lb) up to six hours before and after training.

Source: Is There a Postworkout Anabolic Window of Opportunity for Nutrient Consumption? Clearing up Controversies


1. Should you time your clients’ protein intake for best results?

To optimize muscle protein synthesis, get your clients to consume 0.4 to 0.55 grams of protein per kilogram (0.18 to 0.25 grams per lb) up to six hours before and after training.

2. How soon after training should people eat protein?

How soon someone needs a post-workout meal will depend on their pre-workout nutrition. If an athlete gets enough protein within a few hours before training, they don’t need a post-workout meal immediately. However, having protein soon after training is a good idea if they’ve eaten 6+ hours before exercise or are training first thing in the morning.

3. What are the ideal protein intake and distribution for athletes and trainees?

Research recommends 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram (0.7 to 1 gram per pound) split into four or more doses of 0.4 to 0.55 grams per kilogram (0.18 to 0.25 grams per pound).

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