No It Won’t Make You Fat: Reasons You Should Be Drinking Protein After a Workout
From beginner to bodybuilder, everyone needs their protein.
Somewhere along the line it seems the general public has come to accept that protein supplements (shakes, powders, bottled protein drinks) are for big, Hulk-like bodybuilding gym rats who rattle the gym floor after each and every step as they maneuver their way through their domain.
But the honest truth is, protein is for everybody. Allow me to break it down for you.
Side note: I’ll be using the term “protein” to encompass protein supplements in all their forms — powders, shakes, store bought drinks, etc.
What is protein anyway?
So protein, alongside carbohydrates and fats, is one of the three macronutrients we need to carry out various functions and provide the energy we need to do work. Protein, specifically, is important because it is composed of 20 different amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of muscle tissue which is mostly comprised of proteins which are a major component of all body tissue.
Why do we need protein after a workout?
After a workout, especially after a resistance workout, our muscles are fatigued. They undergo stress throughout the course of the workout that causes them to break down. Following the workout, the body begins to repair these muscle tissues in a way that will build them stronger and more durable in order to sustain another workout of that caliber.
In the muscle rebuilding process, this is called “protein synthesis” whereby new proteins are generated to replace damaged or old ones. When we take in protein, quality protein that contains all essential amino acids, we aid our body in this process as the protein we take in is used to rebuild the muscle stronger and quicker.
Does it matter if I did cardio or lifted weights?
No, both cardio and resistance (also referred to as weight training, lifting, etc.) workouts can benefit from added protein intake immediately following the workout. Both place great demands on the body’s muscular tissue causing muscle fatigue that can benefit from the intake of protein.
I will say, though, that because resistance training places greater demands on the muscles than cardio does, and produces more micro-tears in the muscle tissue that the body must repair and build stronger, it is wildly more important that we get the protein we need to rebuild these muscles as soon as possible.
But doesn’t protein make you gain weight? Will I get fat?
Protein won’t make you gain weight. You gain weight when you eat more calories than your body needs to maintain. That is called being in a caloric surplus. Most protein powders contain anywhere from 100–150 calories a scoop and are very low in carbs and fats.
What you see is probably people taking mass gainers that contain double or triple the amount of calories per serving that an average protein powder does and then doing nothing with it — not working out.
You may also be seeing people taking multiple shakes a day that are added with extras like peanut butter, bananas, oats, and other ingredients. These kinds of extra ingredients are fine and they can enhance the benefits and taste of your shake, but when taken in excess they add too many calories to your diet thus putting you in a caloric surplus causing you to gain weight. Additionally, if these people aren’t putting in the work like they should, all of these added calories get stored as fat.
So no, protein supplements won’t make you fat. Protein itself won’t make you fat. Whether you’re looking to break world records, personal records, or even just become leaner, protein supplements are an excellent way to facilitate muscle development.
Of course, if you can meet your daily protein intake needs through “real food” then by all means go for it. If you can whip together a solid meal after a workout then kudos to you. Protein supplements are just a quick and accessible way to get the protein you need post-workout as soon as possible.
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About The Author: I’m Zach Newman. I’m an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. Conversation is insanely important to me. Its why I love creating things because creation sparks discussion and discussion is the best way to learn from each other. Whether its about fitness and health, what books to read, or what’s going on in the world today, my goal is to build the best community around conversations that better the lives of everyone involved.