While most people know they should have some protein after they exercise, they often believe that they must have a shake or meal immediately after finishing their last set. The fact is if you consumed an adequate amount of quality protein within 30-90 minutes before you started exercising, then there is no need for immediate consumption. In reality as long as some quality protein is consumed within an hour after cessation of training, you are golden. On the flip side of that, waiting too long can compromise the beneficial adaptations to training, and decrease your results. So while you don’t have to slam down a shake immediately after training, it wouldn’t be in your best interest to wait for 3 hours either. A perfect example of the importance of having protein around your training was a recent 10 week trial where the researchers had subjects consume a
protein/carbohydrate mixture before and after training, and another group consume that same mixture at the two points in the day furthest from the training. The group that surrounded their training with the protein/carbohydrate mixture had greater gains in lean mass and strength, while also losing some body fat to boot (the other group actually gained some fat). This clearly indicates that surrounding your training with adequate amounts of high-quality protein (and carbohydrates) will maximize results, even if your total intake for the day is the same. Aim to consume about 15-40 grams of protein within 60 minutes after training, again depending on your size and needs. Whether this is consumed as a shake or a solid meal is solely dependent on what best fits your needs. The take home point is that it is a good idea to surround your training, both before and after, with high quality protein to maximize the benefits of exercise. This will minimize protein breakdown, and maximize your ability to build or maintain lean muscle mass.