Probably the most common – and misunderstood – supplement out there is protein powder. Almost all supplement companies have some sort of protein among their products, with whey-protein being the most wide-spread.
But what is protein powder? Will it really help you grow muscle, and do you need it at all?
Protein powder isn’t some sort of magic supplement that will double your arm overnight. Protein is found in almost every food you eat. So in reality, protein powder is just concentrated food. With that being said, your body needs protein to build muscles.
You need about 2 grams of protein per kg of lean bodyweight a day. Some people need a little less, some people need a little more, but that’s a good place to get started. If you’re overweight, obviously don’t calculate with your whole bodyweight, but try to estimate your lean mass to determine your daily protein goals.
So, protein powder is basically a fast and easy way to make sure that your protein intake is on point every single day. With that being said, you shouldn’t rely on shakes alone to do the trick; your diet should include multiple forms of protein – while protein powder should remain a supplement. Good sources of protein include milk, cheese, eggs, meat, and nuts, but surprisingly even foods considered as carbs – oats, pasta, rice – contain a decent amount of protein.
Besides making sure that you provide your body with enough protein each day, the timing of your protein-intake can also have an effect on your overall results.
A fasted workout will always put you in a catabolic state (in short: not good for muscles). If you haven’t eaten at least 20-30 grams of protein 1-2 hours before your workout, you should definitely have some protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout, to make sure that you’re not hurting your muscle-growth. Other than that, it’s highly debatable whether you need an instant boost of protein immediately after your workouts or not: whether the anabolic window exists is still a hot topic for sports scientists, but I’m not going to take my chances – and neither should you!
A post-workout shake is the easiest and most convenient way to provide your body with an instant dose of protein to fuel your muscles without causing you to throw up. If you’re actually capable of eating a large meal right after your workout, chances are, you didn’t push yourself hard enough.