How Much Protein Should I Eat After A Workout?

How Much Protein Should I Eat After A Workout

We know that protein is essential to help us build muscle, but the amount we should be eating is often debated. Can you get enough protein from a post-workout meal, or should you supplement with a protein powder? How much protein should you eat and when should you eat it? These are common questions athletes and casual gym-goers alike have when it comes to this important macronutrient. Let’s take a deeper look at protein’s role in muscle growth and recovery, when to eat it, how much to eat, and how to get the most out of it.

The Benefit Of Protein After A Workout

Those long hours you dedicate to the gym each week are not the only thing that helps you build your desired physique. To maximize your efforts in the gym, you must consume enough protein to support muscle gains.

When you perform strength training exercises, you are challenging your muscles to make them bigger and stronger. When you challenge your muscles, you create tiny tears in the muscle tissue. These tears need protein to help repair them to perform better the next time you do that exercise. [1]

How Long After A Workout Should I Eat Protein?

There are differing opinions on when you should eat protein post-workout. In the past, the recommendation was to consume a protein-rich meal or snack within 2 hours of working out. Newer studies suggest that the window for adequate muscle recovery is a lot longer than previously thought and can be up to several hours. Another study found that consuming protein shortly before a workout versus shortly after had similar effects on muscle strength and improvements in body composition [2, 3].

Recovery does not only occur during that post-workout meal. Muscle recovery for those who exercise regularly is an ongoing process. Consuming small, frequent, well-balanced meals rich in protein and carbs daily may be more helpful in recovery than focusing only on the post-workout meal [4].

How Much Protein Should I Eat Each Day?

For the average adult, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day. In general, it’s recommended to consume 10-35% of your total calories from protein. That means if you consume a 2,000-calorie diet, 200-700 calories should come from protein [5].

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), to increase muscle mass it’s recommended to increase your protein intake from 0.8 grams per kilogram per day to 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram per day. This can typically be met with diet; however, many supplements are available as well for those who need them [5].

How Much Protein Should I Eat After A Workout For Optimal Recovery?

How Much Protein Should I Eat After a Workout for Optimal Recovery

You should aim to consume 0.3-0.5 grams per kilogram of protein shortly after your workout. This is equivalent to about 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Other studies agree consuming 20-40 grams of protein after your workout is adequate for maximum muscle recovery [1, 6, 7, 8].

Easy Post-Workout Protein Ideas

It’s not enough to know you need to eat more protein after your workout, you need to commit to it. Boosting your protein intake may sound easy, but it can be challenging for those who are new to it. Below are some easy post-workout proteins that can help take the guesswork out of exercise recovery and allow you to focus more time and energy on your workouts.



Eggs are a super simple protein-packed food. With 7 grams of high-quality protein per egg, you can easily hard boil them to be available on the go or whip up an easy 5-minute omelet before hitting the road.

Cottage Cheese

Another quick and easy protein to make your post-workout routine easier is cottage cheese. A 1-cup serving of cottage cheese contains roughly 24 grams of protein. Top it with fresh fruit for a light and refreshing treat or add it to scrambled eggs to make them fluffier and more protein dense.

Greek Yogurt

Like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt is easy, versatile, and packed with protein. A 7-ounce container of low-fat Greek yogurt contains roughly 20 grams of high-quality protein. Be sure to choose a Greek yogurt that does not contain a high number of added sugars. A good rule of thumb is to look for items that contain 5 grams or less of added sugar per serving.

Canned Tuna

If you prefer to work out later in the day, a post-workout of eggs or yogurt may not hit the spot. Canned tuna is a great protein source you can easily incorporate into a variety of meal and snack options. It is inexpensive and loaded with other valuable nutrients, such as healthy fats.

Protein Shakes

Protein Shakes

If you just need something quick and easy, a traditional protein shake will do the trick. Be sure to choose a product that contains high-quality protein, such as whey or pea protein. Avoid products that contain added sugars and artificial ingredients. Also, be sure to pay attention to the calorie information on the label if you plan to use this as a meal replacement or just a snack.

If you’re just looking for something fast and refreshing, skip the sugar-laden sports drinks and grab a whey protein isolate shake, such as Naked Nutrition’s Clear Naked Whey.

This product contains 15 grams of protein per serving, 0 grams of sugar, and only 70 calories. Unlike traditional post-workout shakes that can feel heavy and don’t quite quench your thirst, Clear Naked Whey is delightfully light. Best of all? You can throw it in your shaker cup and take it on the go with ease.

Should I Combine Carbs Or Fat With Post-Workout Protein?

Pairing your post-workout protein with carbohydrates can help boost recovery. Exercise depletes glycogen stores and consuming carbohydrates shortly after a workout can help to replenish what was lost. Be sure to choose carbs that are easy to digest.

For example, simple carbohydrates such as sweet potato, rice, or oatmeal are great options to pair with your protein. Combining protein with carbohydrates is especially important in those who exercise frequently while those who exercise occasionally may not find as much benefit [9, 10].

Fat does not provide any post-workout recovery benefits to aid in muscle growth however, it does not need to be avoided either. Studies have found consuming fat with your post-workout meal slows digestion, but it does not inhibit protein or glycogen synthesis. Easily digestible fats include avocado, nuts, and seeds [11, 12].

Final Thoughts

Protein is essential in post-workout recovery and muscle growth. Those who exercise frequently should be increasing their protein intake and combining their post-workout meal with easily digestible carbohydrates to replenish protein and glycogen stores.

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