Consuming protein after training is a proven method for increasing muscle size and strength, as it provides muscles with the amino acids they need to rebuild and recover. Experts recommend consuming approximately 20 grams of high-quality protein—such as lean meat, chicken, fish or a protein supplement, together with 40 to 80 grams of simple carbohydrates such as pasta or fruit—within 30 minutes following a workout.
In addition to these standard post-workout consumption guidelines, new research shows that consuming another 20 grams of high-quality protein two hours following a workout optimizes muscle size and strength gains. Hence, the two-hour rule: 20 grams of protein immediately after working out and another 20 grams two hours later.
According to Dr. Kim White, senior scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, muscles fully absorb the initial 20 grams of protein within two hours post-exercise. Contrary to popular belief, adding more protein in this initial dose provides little or no benefit, since the body is only able to absorb approximately 20 grams in two hours, and any excess is removed via urination. Consuming a second serving of protein two hours after working out enables the body to digest and absorb another 20 grams, resulting in a blast of amino acids to help your muscles finish off the recovery and rebuilding process.
For optimal muscle recovery and rebuilding, experts recommend consuming a whey protein supplement, because it has a higher absorption rate and a greater ability to stimulate muscle growth than other protein sources. Although protein supplements are generally considered safe, make sure the one you take has been certified free of contaminants, to ensure you fall within your sport's dietary guidelines.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock