Can You Have Protein Before a Workout?

Learn whether or not you should have protein before a workout, and how much protein you need in order to fuel your workout and see results.


Whether you are an amateur gym fanatic or professional athlete, it is important to understand how protein consumption affects your performance. Protein plays a number of roles in how well you perform during a workout, making it one of the most important nutrients to consider while constructing a balanced and effective diet plan. For example, protein helps the body create new muscle fibers, allowing for increased strength and endurance during your workouts. It also promotes speedy recovery after exercise by assisting cells in repairing any damage sustained during exercise. Therefore, it is essential to stay informed on when is best to consume protein for optimal performance before and after physical activity.

Benefits of Protein Before a Workout

Having a protein-rich snack or meal before a workout has many benefits. Consuming protein before a workout can help to improve muscle recovery and growth, as well as provide you with energy during the exercise. Furthermore, it can help reduce muscle breakdown, allowing you to get the most out of the workout. Let’s explore the advantages of having protein before a workout.

Improved Muscle Growth

Studies have shown that having protein beforehand helps to achieve greater muscle building and strength gains, both immediately following the workout and in the long-term. Consuming a mixture of essential amino acids before your workout stimulates your muscles to build quicker as they receive the resources needed for repair right away. This is another great advantage of pre-workout protein intake as it leads to improved muscle growth over time. It can also help with recovery after exercise since you’re providing your body with the necessary nutrients for faster repair. Eating protein before a workout can help increase lean tissue growth, reduce fat levels and improve overall athleticism.

Increased Strength

One of the primary benefits of having protein before a workout is increased strength. A study conducted in 2017 showed that when athletes consumed 20 grams of dairy-based wheat protein an hour before weight-lifting exercises, they had an increase in muscle size and strength compared to those who didn’t include pre-exercise protein intake. Consuming extra protein around your workouts helps to relieve catabolic stress, which is muscle damage caused by intense physical activity that decreases muscle recovery and growth. Additionally, protein ingestion can reduce levels of cortisol (a hormone associated with anxiety, mental fatigue, and physical performance due to the stress response) during exercise sessions. Thus, reducing catabolic stress can lead to an overall improvement in exercise performance and contribute to greater gains in muscular strength over time.

When considering what type of protein source to consume pre-workout, whey protein powder forms are particularly useful due to their high concentrations of amino acids that have been shown through research evidence to be readily absorbed by the body quickly. Pre-workout proteins should also contain essential nutrients such as calcium and iron that have been proven through research evidence to enhance gym performance such as endurance. Examples include eggs (rich in leucine amino acids), legumes (chickpeas are especially rich in plant proteins) as well as other plant sources such as nuts, seeds or plant edibles with a high content of naturally occurring proteins like quinoa or buckwheat noodles.

Improved Endurance

Ingesting a dose of whey protein prior to exercise can provide several performance-related benefits. A study published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” in 2010 investigated the effects of pre-workout protein supplementation on endurance performance. In this investigation, eight healthy male participants were given either a protein supplement or placebo right before they engaged in an endurance running test. Results showed that those who consumed the protein supplement had significantly better performance than those who consumed the placebo. Furthermore, post-exercise measurements revealed that those who ingested the supplement had significantly more glycogen storage within their muscles, which may be indicative of improved exercise recovery and lowered fatigue during subsequent workouts.

Types of Protein

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, and there are various sources of protein that you can take for pre-workout fuel. The different types of proteins come from different sources, such as animal products, plants, and other sources. Here, we’ll explore the various types of proteins available and the best ones to have before a workout.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is a type of complete protein derived from cow’s milk. It is soluble, easy to digest and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, making it an ideal choice for athletes or anyone looking to increase their protein intake. It is commonly found in powder form and can be blended with other ingredients, such as fruits and other supplements, to enhance flavor and nutrition. Whey contains all 9 essential amino acids and is a great source of leucine, an amino acid important for muscle growth and repair.

Whey protein provides several benefits related to strength training and body composition: it supports muscle growth, reduces muscle catabolism (or breakdown), increases strength and boosts post-workout recovery time. Not only that, but emerging scientific research suggests that whey may also reduce body fat reserve levels, aid weight management goals and improve metabolic health.

When taken pre-workout, whey protein has been shown to improve performance by providing energy for muscles during exercise bouts as well as promoting increased levels of fat oxidation for energy production. This can lead to the body working more efficiently throughout a workout session. Research also shows that pre-workout consumption of whey protein helps reduce post-exercise fatigue while fortifying muscular strength and lean mass development later on down the line. All in all, consuming whey before a workout may help get you closer to optimal performance!

Soy Protein

Soy protein is derived from soybean meal and is considered a complete protein source. It contains all 9 essential amino acids and has a reputation for being one of the best plant-based sources of protein. Soy protein also has an impressive nutrient profile, providing multiple minerals and other nutrients like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Melting point studies have confirmed that soy’s natural composition makes it an ideal food source to ingest before exercise or strength training. The presence of high quality proteins with minimal fat and carbohydrates can help decrease post-workout fatigue as well as create an optimal environment for increased muscle growth and recovery after exercise.
Soy protein is also easily digestible which facilitates quicker absorption to the muscle tissue for improved pre-workout performance. It can help maintain muscle glycogen levels during intense physical activity for sustained energy throughout exercise sessions. Additionally, soy proteins are low in saturated fats making it a great choice for athletes at any level or fitness enthusiast seeking both health benefits and improved performance from their workout routine.

Egg Protein

Eggs are one of the best sources of protein, and can become a great addition to meals required for hard training. One egg provides 6-7 grams of protein, and every 100g of egg white consists of 11g protein. Egg whites are a perfect choice for athletes as they provide low fat and zero cholesterol. For those who are dieting and wanting to increase their muscle mass, they provide 17 different amino acids to help with this process. They’re also a great source of B Vitamins which help with energy promotion, so consuming egg whites before a workout will give an athlete extra energy through their exercise sessions.
Additionally, eggs make an ideal pre-workout meal due to their high content in branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s). They are typically found in fish, meat and dairy products as well but come in higher doses when consumed from eggs. Our bodies use BCAA’s during workouts as an additional energy source instead of glucose from carbohydrates or fatty acids from fats; this helps athletes last longer during training sessions so its essential for them to consume enough BCAA’s before these exercises begin.

When to Have Protein Before a Workout

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet and is known to be beneficial when taken before a workout. Protein helps to repair and rebuild muscle, so it can be helpful for any type of exercise. It is important to take the right kind of protein at the right time before a workout, in order to get the most from it. Let’s go over when and what kind of protein is best before a workout.

30 minutes before

When it comes to proper timing, experts recommend having a protein-rich snack or meal 30 minutes before exercising. Eating protein before a workout has several advantages. Muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is the process your body uses to build and repair muscle, increases after eating protein. Aim to have 15-20 grams of protein about 30 minutes before you start working out. Protein sources can be both animal and plant-based foods such as eggs, Greek yogurt, tuna, tofu, black beans and many other options.

For those who are time constrained or unable to eat 30 minutes prior to working out, it’s not the end of the world. Short term MPS can still increase with smaller amounts of protein in less time such as 10-15 grams 15 minutes pre-exercise if needed. Additionally, studies suggest that supplementing with Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), which are found in most quality all-in-one pre workouts are also effective for pre-workout nutrition.

1 hour before

Having protein before a workout has become a popular practice for those looking to increase strength, muscle mass, and burn fat. Taking a protein supplement about an hour before your workout can help you maximize the gains from your workout.

Protein helps with building and repairing muscle tissue. Having a protein-packed snack about an hour before you exercise will ensure that your body has plenty of amino acids readily available in order to build muscle after you train. Consuming between 15 to 25 grams of protein within this hour is recommended.

This pre-workout nutrition should also consist of complex carbohydrates, such as oats or whole wheat bread, as they can offer longer lasting energy than simple carbohydrates like candies or sweets provide. Eating complex carbs along with your protein will help fuel your muscles during training, allowing you to work out for longer periods and get more out of each session.

The timing of consuming protein before you work out is key too in making sure it doesn’t affect digestion negatively during exercise. Eating sooner than an hour before exercising might lead to adverse effects like cramping and discomfort later on in the workout, so be sure to have your pre-workout snack one hour prior so that digestion will have run its course by the time you begin working out.

2 hours before

Ideally, a person should consume protein 2 hours before a workout to maximize the impact of the nutrients on muscle development. During this time frame, the body can slowly process and absorb amino acids from the protein source. Consuming protein too close to your workout may mean that it’s not broken down in time for your muscles to take full advantage of its benefits. Premium athletic nutrition products are designed with this timing in mind; they provide an optimized form and mix of proteins and carbohydrates in concentrations meant to fuel your muscles and energy levels during exercise.

Still, eating shortly before a workout has its own benefits — some proteins are easier on your stomach when consumed raw, like non-fat Greek yogurt, and can improve active performance by providing an additional source of fuel during exercise. This method is best reserved for light exercises such as yoga or walking as they involve minimal strain on muscle groups.

How Much Protein to Have

Eating protein before a workout is important for helping to build and repair muscle. But how much protein should you have? Research has shown that having 20-40 grams of protein before a workout can provide your body with the energy it needs for an effective workout, and help to optimize muscle building. However, it’s important to be aware of the amount of protein you’re consuming since overconsuming can lead to bloating and GI distress. In this article, we’ll look at how much protein you should have before a workout, and the best sources of protein to provide your body with optimal nutrition.

20-30 grams

When it comes to having protein before a workout, the right quantity is essential. Eating too much can cause digestive issues and not enough can leave you feeling drained and unable to maintain your workout. The general rule of thumb is to aim for 20-30 grams of protein before exercising. In terms of pre-workout snacks, this amount could be achieved by having a handful of nuts, an egg or two with toast, some Greek yogurt, or drinking a protein shake.

Consuming the right amount of carbohydrates is important before exercise as well, as this helps fuel your muscles for activity. Try substituting white bread for whole grain bread and combine proteins with complex carbs (such as leafy greens) which contain more fiber which provides greater energy absorption in the body during an intense workout routine.

What’s more, eating a balanced meal up to two hours prior to exercise ensures that most nutrients are readily available when needed in order to perform at peak levels without becoming quickly tired or suffering from poor concentration. Make sure you provide your body with appropriate fuel and hydration levels so that you can take on any intense physical challenge and maintain optimal health during exercise!

40-50 grams

It is recommended that adults eat about 0.8-1.2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight every day. For athletes, however, due to increased levels of physical activity and muscle strain, this requirement can increase up to 1.4-2.0 grams per kilogram per day to help them repair and regrow stronger muscles after workouts sessions.

Before a workout, you should ideally consume 40-50 grams of a high-quality protein source, along with some simple carbs or fibre such as fruit or vegetables, to give you the energy necessary during your exercise session while fueling your muscles with the nutrients they need. Consuming protein before exercising helps to prevent muscle breakdown during this time and will aid in your recovery afterwards1. To ensure maximum benefit from the protein consumed pre-workout, it is recommended that a meal containing 15-25g of quality protein be consumed 2 hours prior to working out and another 15-25g immediately afterwards within 30 minutes3.

Consuming too much protein before exercising or consuming it too close to an exercise session may not be beneficial in many cases due to digestive issues such as bloating or indigestion4. Additionally, depending on the type of exercise you are doing, different types of proteins may work better for you in providing adequate energy levels; for instance slow digesting proteins like casein or dairy may benefit those engaged in weight training activities5 but those engaging in high intensity activities like sprinting may benefit more from fast digesting proteins (Whey).

60-70 grams

Research suggests that to maximize the muscle-building benefits of exercise, you should consume 60-70 grams of protein before a workout. Of course, the exact amount varies depending on individual metabolisms and the type of exercise being done.

If you’re looking to build muscle and pack on size, research suggests that having 45-60 minutes before your workout is ideal for consuming enough protein to kickstart an anabolic—or muscle building—process. Additionally, eating about 20-30 grams of protein every couple of hours throughout the day can help keep your body’s protein levels up and support muscle growth and recovery from exercise.

Most experts recommend having easily digestible types of proteins before a workout such as whey, eggs or fish protein shakes. It is also important to have complex carbohydrates within an hour or two prior to your workout for sustained energy and optimal performance during exercise. This could include foods like oats, sweet potato or brown rice with some added fat for taste such as ghee or coconut oil.

When fuelling with proteins before a workout it is important to plan ahead and take into consideration what type of activity will be performed along with rest periods in between bouts if there are any. Ensuring you meet your daily needs by providing adequate amounts of Protein will ensure optimal gains over time if partnered with resistance training over an extended period of time supported by proper nutrition before an after workouts.


Considering the importance of protein for muscle repair and growth, having a source of it before a workout is essential to maximize its benefits. While food-based sources are ideal, if that’s not an option protein supplementation can still provide numerous benefits. Ultimately when it comes to having protein before a workout, the best choice is whichever you’re most likely to commit to on a regular basis.

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