If you are an avid exerciser, protein is a nutrient you need to rebuild damaged muscle fibers, which can help to prevent muscle soreness after you exercise. The amount of protein you need prior to your workout can depend upon how well your stomach tolerates solid foods before exercising and the types of proteins you enjoy eating.
Jim Stoppani, Ph.D, writing on the Muscle & Fitness Hers website, calls pre-workout a “critical” time to take in protein. This is because taking in proteins before your workout can help to prevent muscle breakdown when you exercise. Your muscles naturally start to break down when you exercise because they are challenged. While your body will eventually repair this damage, preventing muscle breakdown can help you build up, instead of tear down, your muscles.
One of the best ways to incorporate protein into your pre-workout snack is by drinking a protein shake, says Stoppani. A recommended example is whey protein, a milk protein that is considered highly bioavailable, meaning your body can use it with minimal wastes and use it quickly. Whey protein contains peptides, which can dilate your blood vessels and enhance blood flow to your muscles, which brings oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Stoppani recommends drinking 20 grams of whey protein mixed with water within 30 minutes before your exercise session.
If you do not want to drink a protein shake before your workout, you can choose other protein sources. Sharon Howard, R.D., M.S., writing on the ESPN Training Room website, recommends consuming protein with between 40 to 100 grams of carbohydrates to prevent muscle breakdown and boost energy. Examples include eating a banana and yogurt, cereal and milk, a sports bar and water or fig bars and milk. Other snacks could include a glass of milk with 12 crackers spread with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or juice and pretzels.
Not every fitness expert agrees that you should drink a protein shake before working out. “Shape” magazine’s Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., recommends avoiding consuming a protein shake prior to your workout because your body does not absorb protein quickly, which could potentially cause stomach cramping. If you are able to consume protein prior to your workout without adverse stomach symptoms, you can incorporate a protein shake. If you experience stomach cramping, however, you may wish to consume a smaller protein source in favor of more carbohydrates, such as cereal with skim milk.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.