Evidence based medical wellness for active people from a doc who walks the walk

Should you eat protein before and after a work out? Or is just a bunch of BS?


My strength gains on the left leg have come very slowly. My physical therapists had me take two weeks off, because my muscles were so sore between strength workouts.  I am back, but feel like the leg got even weaker.  I am as diligent as ever in doing the prescribed exercises, and dutifully do what the physical therapists tell me (like not playing tennis last Wednesday), but I wonder what else I could do.

I have heard a lot about taking in enough protein but inquiring minds want to know what the real story is.  I have been trying to lose weight, so probably have cut out too much protein.  (I have been eating a lot of salads.)

So here ya go! To be honest, as it frequently happens, the data on how much protein to eat to build muscle is murky.  BUT there are some firm recommendations.

  • Eating protein with in 3 hours of a work out increases muscle building activity and muscle size (“hypertrophy”.)
  • The amount of protein is important.  For best results, eat 0.4 – 0.5 grams of protein for every kg of lean body weight before and after a workout.  (Click here for an easy way to calculate your lean body weight.)   For you math/formula junkies, the formula is:
    Lean Body Weight (women) = (1.07 x Weight(kg)) – 148 ( Weight2/(100 x Height(m))2) Lean Body Weight (men) = (1.10 x Weight(kg)) – 128 ( Weight2/(100 x Height(m))2)
  • So, for me, my lean body weight is 46 kg.  That translates to 18 – 23  grams of protein before a work out and then the same amount AFTER the work out.
  • Adding in carbohydrates does not improve muscle growth and repair, so no need to eat it unless you want to.
  • Now, finding something that contains that much protein is actually edible and isn’t huge in calories is challenging.  I have tried a lot of different protein bars, and most taste like chalk. I like “Think Thin” protein bars, but even they have a lot of calories for the amount of protein.   The bar pictured is my current favorite, but only contains 10 grams of protein and is 150 calories.  That means that I would need to eat FOUR bars, for a grand total of 600 calories! Yeesh! Way too many calories!
ThinkThin Bar

My favorite Think Thin Bar, but not enough protein!

So now what? Well, my next mission is to try various protein powder.  My nephew, a former high school wrestler was always drinking the stuff, and actually had it on his Christmas list one year.  So, being the investigative reporter that I am, I found a site that rates the various protein powders .

“Our analysis quantified protein, fat, sugar, cholesterol, calcium, sodium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury content and recorded presence/absence data for 63 inactive ingredients.”  –Labdoor

If you have a favorite, let me know.  I have tried the Shakeology. Per the Labdoor evaluation, the actual protein content was 27% below what the label stated.  It still got an A- overall. I would have to eat way too much of it to use it as a workout supplement — the calorie total would be around 560 if I mixed it with water.  It is not designed as a strict protein supplement, but I thought it was worth a shot (or shake…)

Next I will try Spiru-tein.  I have some sitting on my pantry shelf. It got an A rating and ended up containing more protein per scoop then stated on the label. I will let you know how it tastes as I will have some before my tennis match tomorrow.

Of course, if you want to come to my match and barbecue me a steak, I won’t complain!


Author: PookieMD

I am a board certified internal medicine physician. I love medicine and seek to bring evidence based medicine to the fitness and wellness world.

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