We all know that taking adequate protein as part of a balanced diet is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, ensuring you access all the essential amino acids you need. Getting beyond the ‘traditional’ thinking that somehow meat-based diets contain the ‘correct’ blend of proteins, you also open up the potential to derive your plant-based protein intake from a variety of foods.
So what’s the most logical source?
Well, nothing beats vegan protein powder in Australia for the pure convenience that helps deal with a hectic work and exercise schedule. Whether it’s swirled into a smoothie or part of a vegan protein meal, there’s a way to make it work for you.
Powder formulation has also come a long way, and now the best tasting vegetarian protein powders, pea or vegan chocolate protein powders can add a complex subtlety to your daily flavour experience that makes them exciting and innovative to use.
This aside, it’s no use investing in even the top-rated vegan protein powder if you’re not using it correctly. Slamming down chocolate plant protein powder shakes whenever the feeling takes is also a surefire way to waste that protein.
Now that we understand the importance of what protein powders to use in terms of quality, the question of when to use them and in what quantity becomes vital, so that the protein works effectively for your daily regimen.
Making protein work for you is a question of timing. So…when is the ideal time to take protein each day?
It’s not what you think.
Many sources suggest protein inputs first thing in the morning to prepare for the day, or for that matter the last thing at night so that your body can convert those inputs to repair efficiently during rest. Other sources state taking protein prior to workouts to promote readiness for muscle stress, and this can indeed help to provide the required energy.
However, so will a banana.
The most common advice is to ingest protein post-workout. This makes the most sense as your muscles are tired and in need of energy, but the problem is the stress on immediate protein intake within a 15-minute window directly after exercise. This is supposed to equal a maximised muscle gain factor within the body’s anabolic window, during which you can quickly shunt inputs to muscles to help them grow.
This approach misses the mark and fails to recognise how the body really functions. The term ‘anabolic’ means ‘building up,’ and this means your body first needs to break down food inputs via the catabolic process so those foods can be formed into whatever your body needs to build itself.
In short, catabolism means correct recovery, and you need this to happen to make the best use of those powders.
And 15 minutes is too short a window for this to happen.
Muscle Protein Synthesis
Whether it’s yoga, running, cardio or weights, your ability to become more flexible, faster, fitter or stronger depends on how well you can synthesise protein inputs to make new muscle. This new growth is called hypertrophy.
Simply put, studies have shown the synthesis rate elevates by 50% in the 4 hours following strenuous workouts and increases to 109% in the 24 hours afterward. Your body is looking to adequately recover from exercise and open up a longer window of protein uptake efficiency.
So what does this mean for the notion that we should immediately slam that protein in directly after a workout? Well, additional research has widely indicated that ingesting protein so quickly does not result in significant hypertrophy, even so much as to point out that your protein synthesis may decrease by as much as 30% in this immediate post-exercise period. In fact, muscle protein synthesis appears to kick off approximately one hour after physical stress, so this could be an optimal moment to consider drinking that shake with your favourite vegan chocolate protein powder.
In the meantime, you need to help your body immediately after workout. The solution is simple…water. Correct rehydration will always prime your system so that bodily functions are normalising as fast as possible. This means that the faster you’re balanced, the more likely it is that your protein hit will enter a system that’s ready to focus on putting it to use.
The short answer is that studies can indicate when not to take protein, and that is directly following hard physical stress when your body is focussed on not being sore, not overheating, and is not yet primed to accept and effectively process all that vegan protein goodness. Giving your system adequate time to catabolise protein is critical so that it can then allocate that protein to your muscle growth via anabolism.
Your body will give you time. Trust it.
Also, bear in mind your general protein requirements. 0.8g-1.6g per kg of body weight per day, with the lower end of the scale for regular maintenance and the upper end for hypertrophic muscle gain through regular workouts.
This means you do not need to ingest more protein than this amount, and slamming six shakes a day will not result in six times the muscle change from your exercise!
If you maintain a persistent day-in-day-out regimen of regular exercise, then it makes sense to try and help your system where possible by supplying protein powder at other times as well. Sleeping 8 hours will result in incremental muscle breakdown to supply energy to the body first thing, so starting your day with protein can help shore up this gap. Equally, taking protein powder before sleep makes sense as part of a busy schedule, as it will optimise the chance of creating even protein levels to last through till morning.
The Protein Consumption Sweetspot
The takeaway is to understand that your body will react to regular workouts by engaging muscle growth. To do this, it needs quality protein inputs from quality protein sources. However, this doesn’t mean being reactive by guzzling a shake as soon as you step off the treadmill or leave the studio. By knowing your bodily rhythms, you can take protein proactively, to prepare yourself overnight and most critically at least one hour after that gym session.