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When should I eat protein to optimize my athletic performance?

As a health professional, eating protein to optimize athletic performance is crucial. Scientific research suggests that timing protein consumption strategically can enhance muscle repair, recovery, and adaptation to exercise.

To maximize the benefits of protein, it is recommended to distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day, rather than focusing on a single meal. This approach ensures a steady supply of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, for muscle synthesis and repair.

Studies show that consuming 20 grams of protein immediately before and after resistance training lead to greater muscle protein synthesis compared to consuming the same amount of protein at other times throughout the day.

This highlights the importance of pre- and post-workout protein intake for muscle recovery and growth. Furthermore, spreading protein intake evenly across meals, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner, improves muscle protein synthesis and muscle mass in older adults. This principle can be applied to athletes as well, regardless of age, to optimize muscle repair and growth.

Consuming protein-rich foods or supplements before bedtime can be beneficial as ingesting a protein shake before sleep increased muscle protein synthesis and improved muscle recovery overnight in young men, according to one study.

The timing of protein consumption is therefore essential for optimizing athletic performance. To maximize muscle repair and adaptation, it is recommended to consume protein before and after exercise, as well as evenly distribute protein intake across meals throughout the day. Additionally, consuming protein before bedtime can support muscle recovery overnight. By adopting these evidence-based strategies, athletes can enhance their overall performance and facilitate optimal muscle repair and growth.


  1. Cintineo, H. P., Arent, M. A., Antonio, J., & Arent, S. M. (2018). Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in nutrition, 5, 83.

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