Regular gym-goers often guzzle protein shakes to augment their rigorous strength-training routine. These shakes usually contain some combination of whey and soy protein, along with carbohydrates and sweeteners. Consuming protein after a workout can help you with recovery, repair and muscle growth, but drinking them without exercising will not build muscle in your body, including your legs.
Protein shakes may be premixed or homemade. They usually provide between 20 and 40 g of protein and promise to help you get a leaner body with bigger muscles. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, or ISSN, exercising individuals do need more protein, up to 2 g per kg of body weight daily as opposed to the 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight recommended for sedentary individuals. Protein shakes are a convenient way to fit in some of this extra protein.
Protein consists of chains of amino acids. Consuming amino acids around the time of exercise, usually right before and right after, can help support muscle growth. A study in the journal “Amino Acids” published in 2007 found that ingesting 20 g of protein and amino acids an hour before and after exercise can help improve muscle performance, synthesis and growth. Drinking a protein shake before and after a leg workout can help you build leg muscle.
To build leg muscles, you must perform regular, consistent strength routines with heavy weights. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges and calf raises target the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals and calves to build muscle. You want to use weights that allow you to do 20 or fewer repetitions per set. Without weight training, your muscles are not stimulated to grow stronger no matter how much protein you consume.
You also must leave adequate rest between leg strength-training workouts to experience maximal results. The actual act of lifting causes micro tears in the muscles, and you need rest so these tears repair, making your muscles bigger and stronger. Avoid working legs on consecutive days to allow for proper recovery.
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Position Stand: Protein and Exercise
- Men's Fitness: 10 Ways to Gain Muscle
- Amino Acids: Effects of Resistance Training and Protein Plus Amino Acid Supplementation on Muscle Anabolism, Mass, and Strength
- Muscle and Strength: Overtraining -- Why Less Is More
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.