Here's How Much Protein You Should Eat After A Workout To Optimize Muscle Gain

Whether your goal is to have Dwayne Johnson's powerful legs or Jessica Biel's chiseled arms, you'll probably need to spend some time at the gym. Your workout might consist of 4 sets of 8 or a hard circuit with 50 reps to create those small tears in your muscles that will lead to muscle gain. However, no matter how hard you work out, you won't be able to add muscle without the right nutrition plan, starting with protein.

According to Medical News Today, your body continually breaks down muscle protein, so you need at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day just to prevent muscle loss. To gain muscle, you'll need to add more protein to your overall nutrition plan, with the optimal amount falling in the range of 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 150-pound person, that's between 82 and 109 grams of protein a day.

However, you don't want to eat all that protein in one sitting, especially after your workout. According to a 2017 article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, you should consume about 20 to 40 grams of high-quality protein within two hours after your workout to optimize muscle gain.

Post-workout nutrition plays a key role in gaining muscle

How much protein you'll need after your workout depends on your body weight. The International Society of Sports Nutrition article suggests 0.25 to 0.40 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, that's 17 to 27 grams of protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

While a hard muscle-building workout requires protein for muscle synthesis, you'll also need to add some carbs to help your body absorb protein and replenish lost muscle glycogen. Your body will need 0.8 grams of carbohydrates for each kilogram of body weight, which is about 54 grams of carbs for someone weighing 150 pounds.

You can easily reach these goals with a blueberry banana smoothie. A cup of blueberries, a medium banana, and a scoop of whey protein give you 51 grams of carbohydrates and 26 grams of protein (depending on your brand of protein powder). According to a 2013 article in the Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, whey protein is best after a workout because it's absorbed by your body more rapidly to get to work on building that muscle.

Protein throughout your day

Although it might be tempting to add more protein to your post-workout meal, the International Society of Sports Nutrition article says it's best to spread out your protein intake throughout the day, preferably every three hours or so. Your body is still synthesizing protein between three and five hours after exercise. Adding about 30 or 40 grams of casein protein in the evening will stoke your metabolism and the recovery process.

Protein sources such as meat, chicken, eggs, seafood, and dairy have the nine essential amino acids that you need from food. Plant-based proteins like beans, peas, lentils, and nuts don't have sufficient amounts of all these amino acids on their own (via Medical News Today). Therefore, vegans and vegetarians should include a variety of plant-based protein sources to meet their amino acid needs to build muscle.

You'll also still need plenty of carbs to sustain your energy and help keep your body fueled for your next workout. Even bodybuilders preparing for a competition will take in between 55 and 60% of their total calories from carbohydrates, according to a 2004 review in Sports Medicine.