Study: Taking protein supplements before going to the gym can lead to improved post-workout burn

The timing of your protein intake matters. Researchers from Lindenwood University, Texas Woman’s University, and the University of South Carolina suggest taking protein supplements before your workout to improve your post-workout burn.

Published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the study looked at the effect of taking protein supplements before exercise on fat oxidation and energy expenditure during and after a bout of moderate-intensity exercise. Previous research has shown that pre-exercise protein consumption may promote fat oxidation, at the same time, minimize protein degradation during exercise.

For the current study, the researchers recruited 11 healthy, recreationally active college-aged males. To be included in the study, the participants did not consume more than 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine each day. They also did not take any form of nutritional supplementation other than protein and multi-vitamins for 30 days before the start of the study.

The participants consumed 25 g of a whey protein isolate, 35 g of casein protein, 25 g of food additive maltodextrin, or a non-caloric control. Whey protein and casein protein are both dairy-based proteins, but they are absorbed by the body at different speeds. Whey protein is quickly absorbed, while casein is slowly absorbed. Thirty minutes after consuming one of the four supplements, they performed 30 minutes of treadmill exercise. The researchers assessed their metabolic rate during exercise and 15 minutes after exercise.

Based on their analysis, the researchers discovered that consuming either of the two protein supplements — whey and casein — half an hour before moderate-intensity treadmill exercise resulted in higher post-exercise energy expenditure compared to consuming maltodextrin or a non-caloric control before exercise. In addition, post-workout fat oxidation improved after protein intake. However, those who took casein protein supplements experienced significantly more fat oxidation than those who consumed whey protein.

From these findings, the researchers concluded that consumption of protein supplements, particularly casein, before exercise improves post-exercise burn and fat oxidation.

Importance of protein for exercise

Protein is one of the key nutrients needed to maintain a healthy body. It plays a role in repairing any internal or external damage, supporting the immune system, and contributing to an overall feeling of well-being. Protein is also important in sending messages at a cellular level, as well as defending, preserving, and repairing essential life functions.

People who are physically active need more protein than those who do not exercise. This is because exercise typically results in torn and damaged muscle fibers, which are needed to be repaired by the body — and protein is responsible for this. For people who regularly exercise, it is helpful to take additional food items such as protein bars, shakes, and powders to help enhance workout performance. In addition, combining protein with carbohydrates will help your body absorb the protein and turn it into more muscle mass. In addition to muscle repair, this will help with glycogen replacement. Adding protein to a meal can also affect hormones that suppress your appetite and make you feel full for longer with a steady supply of energy. (Related: High-protein supplements may help you recover faster after a strenuous workout.)

You can get protein from animal foods, such as eggs, organic dairy products, chicken, turkey, pork, and fish and seafood. For vegetarians and vegans, protein can be obtained from plant foods such as beans, soy protein products, and nuts.

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