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Protein For Recovery – Common Misconceptions

March 09, 2020

Protein for revovery

Protein For Recovery - Common Misconceptions

by our Sports Scientist Steve Morehen

We have looked at recovery from endurance and strength training in previous blogs and hopefully now have an understanding that the recovery aspect of our fitness regimes is just as important as the training side. In this article, I thought it would be a good idea to address some common misconceptions people have when it comes to protein for recovery.

You’ve probably heard the following statements thrown around the gym changing room from time to time, but now let’s take a look at what the science says…

You should consume protein immediately after finishing a resistance workout.

Whilst there is no questioning the importance of protein in recovery from resistance
training, what does the science say about when to consume protein?

There are a number of studies which have investigated whether protein timing surrounding resistance training has any effect on the adaptations seen over the course of a training program. Hoffman et al (2009) investigated the effect of protein timing in college athletes, with one group consuming protein immediately before and after workouts and the other group consuming protein in the morning and evening. No differences in changes in strength, power or body composition were found between these two groups. [1]
Furthermore, Schoenfield et al (2016) conducted a study which compared changes in muscle mass and strength over a 10-week training program among two groups of trained men, with groups consuming 25g of whey protein either before or after workouts. Again, no difference was found between these two groups. [2]
Finally, Candow and colleagues (2006), assigned older males (59-76 years old) to one of two groups – pre or post-workout consumption of a relative (0.3g/kg) dose of protein – and monitored the adaptations to a 12-week resistance training program. Once again, these adaptations were unaffected by protein timing. [3]

You only need protein on days where you’re working out.

Protein is necessary to rebuild muscles after they are damaged (remember, this damage is a good thing) through exercise. We could be forgiven then for thinking that protein consumption is less of a priority on non-training days where our muscles are being stressed. However, protein intake on recovery days is just as important as on training day. Research suggests that Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS), which is stimulated by exercise can last for up to 4 hours after a workout if in a fasted state. However, if there are sufficient amino acids (from the breakdown of dietary protein) then MPS can remain elevated for 24 hours [4] , that’s a whole day of extra muscle-building potential, so long as we provide our bodies with the necessary fuel.

Protein before bed enhances recovery.

Okay, so this one is true… but before you reach for the protein powder, we need to consider what type of protein and why! Animal protein consists of whey and casein, which have very divergent digestive properties when it comes to increasing MPS. Casein is considered to be an ideal pre-sleep protein source for muscle anabolism, due to its relatively slow digestive properties compared with whey, which allows for a sustained elevation in plasma amino acid concentrations, and consequently rates of MPS, for the duration of sleep [5, 6].
Ingestion of pre-sleep casein protein stimulates MPS throughout the night, a period which is usually catabolic (meaning muscle protein breakdown occurs) due to a lack of amino acids. The utilisation of this overnight “window of opportunity” is now being recommended as an effective way to maintain muscle mass in older individuals [7] . So then, the old adage of “a glass of milk before bed makes you grow big and strong” is pretty spot on – cow’s milk is approximately 80% casein and 20% whey which makes it an ideal pre-sleep beverage. If consuming liquid that close to bed isn’t desirable then cottage cheese is a great solid-form alternative, also containing approximately 80% casein.

Hopefully this post has provided some clarity on protein in recovery, having addressed a few of the misconceptions surrounding the super-nutrient. There are plenty more out there – if you’ve got any that you’d like me to address then get in contact via our socials - @bamorganic



  1. Hoffman, J.R., et al., Effect of protein-supplement timing on strength, power, and body-composition changes in resistance-trained men. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2009. 19(2): p. 172-85.
  2. Schoenfeld, B.J., et al., Pre- versus post-exercise protein intake has similar effects on muscular adaptations. PeerJ, 2017. 5: p. e2825.
  3. Candow, D.G., et al., Protein supplementation before and after resistance training in older men. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2006. 97(5): p. 548-56.
  4. Areta, J.L., et al., Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. J Physiol, 2013. 591(9): p. 2319-31.
  5. Trommelen, J. and L.J. van Loon, Pre-Sleep Protein Ingestion to Improve the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise Training. Nutrients, 2016. 8(12).
  6. Kinsey, A.W. and M.J. Ormsbee, The health impact of nighttime eating: old and new perspectives. Nutrients, 2015. 7(4): p. 2648-62.
  7. Morehen, S., et al., Pre-Sleep Casein Protein Ingestion Does Not Impact Next-Day Appetite, Energy Intake and Metabolism in Older Individuals. Nutrients, 2019. 12(1).

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