If you've ever casually discussed sports nutrition, you may be familiar with the concept of an anabolic window. The idea is: after you exercise, your body is in a ramped-up state of protein absorption and muscle re-synthesis. In order to maximize your muscle-building potential, you should consume an easily digestible form of protein as soon as possible post-workout.
I.e. drink that protein shake after your workout to maximize your gains.
However, a new study suggests you may not need to down a protein shake after your exercise session. This research compared protein consumption before exercise to after exercise, and found no difference in the amount of muscle synthesis.
The previous concept of an anabolic window pointed to research done on participants in a fasted state, which doesn't apply to the majority of us when we go to exercise. This is important to note, as eating protein before your workout may be just as beneficial.
This data is valuable for adults and adolescents alike. Teenagers, particularly high school athletes are just as susceptible to the belief that protein shakes are a necessary component to enhancing athletic performance. Protein supplements are not regulated by the F.D.A., and are therefore less safe as they're prone to contain undisclosed or mislabeled ingredients.
Sound advice for a younger athlete would be to eat a balanced meal or snack containing carbohydrates and protein after exercise, as opposed to chugging a protein shake.
Some meal ideas include:
Some snack ideas include:
Fruit & yogurt or nuts
Toast & nut butter or hummus
Crackers & string cheese or hard-boiled eggs
Yogurt and granola or fruit
Cottage cheese and granola or fruit
What's the takeaway?
As long as you're meeting your protein needs, which most Americans are, and eating consistently throughout the day, downing a protein shake after your workout may not be necessary.