A. Roger A. Fielding, PhD, director of the HNRCA’s Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia laboratory, answers: “After exercise, protein synthesis causes our muscles to increase in size and strength. Dietary protein supports muscle growth. We have known for a long time that muscles are more sensitive to dietary protein after exercise. Rates of muscle protein synthesis seem to increase to a greater extent if you consume protein in the four hours after exercise.
“While the ideal amount of protein is as yet undefined and is likely very individualized, our research has seen significant results with 20 grams (about the amount of protein in three-and-a-half ounces of animal protein or one cup quinoa with one cup beans). Any meal consumed within the four hours after exercise will likely provide all the protein needed to maximize muscle repair and get the most from your workout. Getting adequate protein—spread throughout the day, rather than amassed in one meal or protein supplement —is the best way to preserve muscle mass and support growth from exercise. (See page four for more on protein and muscle health.)”