May 27th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

How much protein should I take post-workout?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Asked by Jason from Afghanistan

I am currently deployed to Afghanistan. I am rigorously training in the gym at night. Pre-workout, I am taking NaNO Vapor and then as a post-workout boost I'm taking the Muscle Tech's Nitro-Tech. How much protein should I be taking for my post-workout? That's all ma'am.

Expert answer

Hi Jason,

First and foremost, thank you for your service to our country. To answer your question completely accurately, I would need more information about you: height, weight, training goals.

I'm going to assume that you are trying to gain muscle mass and that you don't need to lose fat, and I'll give you some simple calculations to determine how much protein you need all day, not just after workouts.

To help answer your question, I consulted Chad Landers, a certified strength and conditioning coach who also has a diploma in sports nutrition from the International Olympic Committee.

He suggested that an optimal range of protein intake for an athlete trying to gain muscle is .72-.81 grams per pound per day. If your goal is to maintain muscle, the range is .54-.64 grams per pound per day. So to calculate your requirements, simply multiply your weight times one of the figures above.

He also recommended that you consume 20-30 grams of protein after your workout. The supplement that you are taking post-workout contains 25 grams of protein so that is probably plenty.

Whey protein is a faster acting protein so it is more effective before and after workouts, but it is important to eat protein from a variety of sources if possible (chicken, fish, lean meat, low fat dairy, beans/legumes, nuts) for optimal performance and health.

The supplement you are taking also contains creatine, which can help increase muscle mass, and is safe as long as you don't have any kidney problems. In addition, it is important to consume adequate amounts of carbohydrate, both before and after workouts, as this is the fuel that your muscles actually run on. If you don't eat enough carbs, your body will have to use some of the protein that you eat as fuel, a much less efficient process that can impair your muscle gains.

The supplement that you take before your workout contains caffeine, a proven performance enhancer. However, none of the other components have been proven to be effective, especially at unknown doses, so you may do just as well eating a piece of fruit and a yogurt and having a cup of coffee before your workout.

The supplement industry is largely unregulated, and supplements often contain "proprietary formulas" that make it difficult to assess the potential effectiveness. The performance enhancers with the most evidence, according to sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, are caffeine and creatine (to build muscle).

She also notes that beta-alanine is also "getting some good attention for sprint-type sports." I hope this helps, and I hope you stay safe over there.

Follow Dr. Jampolis on Twitter

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