Best Time to Consume Protein for Optimal Muscle Protein Synthesis

14 May


Protein is an essential macronutrient for muscle growth and repair. As a bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast, you're likely aware of the importance of protein in your diet. However, timing your protein intake strategically can further enhance your muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and contribute to optimal gains. In this article, we'll explore the best times to consume protein for maximizing MPS and discuss the scientific evidence supporting these recommendations.

For years, there has been a popular belief in the fitness community regarding an "anabolic window" - a limited time after a workout when consuming protein is thought to be most beneficial for muscle growth. However, recent research has challenged this notion and suggests that the timing of protein intake throughout the day is more important than solely focusing on the post-workout period.

To optimize MPS, it is recommended to distribute your protein intake evenly across meals throughout the day. Studies have shown that consuming approximately 20-30 grams of protein per meal is sufficient to stimulate MPS, regardless of whether it's pre- or post-workout. This approach ensures a constant supply of amino acids in your bloodstream, supporting muscle repair and growth over a 24-hour period.

Consuming protein before your workout can be beneficial for maximizing MPS. By providing your body with amino acids before exercising, you help initiate the muscle-building process during the workout itself. Aim for a protein source that is easily digestible, such as a whey protein shake or a lean protein like chicken breast, consumed about 30-60 minutes before your workout.

While the anabolic window may not be as critical as once believed, consuming protein after a workout remains important for muscle recovery and growth. Research suggests that a combination of protein and carbohydrates consumed within a few hours post-workout can enhance MPS and glycogen replenishment. Aim for a protein source like whey protein or a lean meat option, along with a source of carbohydrates such as fruit or whole grains.

Sleep is a crucial period for recovery and muscle growth. Consuming a slow-digesting protein source before bed can help provide a sustained release of amino acids throughout the night, promoting MPS during sleep. Casein protein, found in dairy products, is often recommended due to its slow digestion rate.

While the concept of an "anabolic window" has been debunked, timing your protein intake strategically can still play a role in optimizing muscle protein synthesis. Distributing your protein intake evenly throughout the day, including pre- and post-workout meals, and considering protein timing around sleep can all contribute to maximizing muscle gains. Remember to prioritize overall daily protein intake, aim for high-quality protein sources, and consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice based on your specific goals and needs.


Boirie, Y., Dangin, M., Gachon, P., Vasson, M. P., Maubois, J. L., & Beaufrère, B. (1997). Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 94(26), 14930-14935.

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