Editor's note: This post was written by Feed athlete and pro triathlete Angela Naeth. To check out Angela's Feed and purchase her favorite products, click here to view her athlete box. It’s not just what you eat but when you eat it!
Protein is an important macronutrient for all athletes. It helps facilitate muscular repair, remodeling and is used as a source of energy (5-10% of expended energy) during exercise of 2+ Hours in length. To enhance the effectiveness protein has on the body, there are certain times when your body is more receptive to eating it. According to Jesse Kropelnicki (my coach), your body is more sensitive to protein synthesis two times during the day - immediately post workout, and at night when we sleep. For athletes with less muscle mass, the objective is to protect the muscle that you have, and therefore you may want to focus your protein intake during these two periods of the day. How much protein?
The research shows drastic improvements in muscle protein synthesis up to about 20 grams per serving. After 20 grams there may be a small benefit (up to 30 grams), however, 90% of the benefit is likely gained with 20 grams. Why take protein before bed?
A 20 gram protein snack doesn't promote a blood sugar response, which we want to avoid before sleep. It also helps keep the metabolism running at full speed as it reduces the length of the overnight fasting window. Ingesting some protein before you go to bed is especially important for those athletes looking to protect muscle mass. What if I have too much muscle?
Athletes who spent a large portion of their sporting lives in other sports, body builders, track sprint athletes, football players, etc, may have excess muscle mass that inhibits their performance in triathlon or other endurance sports. With these particular athletes, an evening snack of protein is not required and they should evaluate their own proteins needs based on their athletic history and future goals. Ideas for post-workout and night-time snacks:
My go-to post-workout recovery drink is a smoothie either with fruit and a scoop of whey protein (I use Standard Process Complete Whey) or an icy mix of Ultragen by First Endurance. At night, I’m an avid fan of another Whey protein smoothie but with a little less fruit, a little greek yogurt and more ice. I mix it up with some cocoa-powder and instant decaf coffee for flavor. Other evening snacks I have are a mix of greek yogurt and cottage-cheese, or leftovers from dinners that include steak, chicken and/or fish.