Post-Exercise Protein: Is There a Limit?

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If you’re familiar with the fitness scene, you’ve likely heard the advice that consuming roughly 30 grams of protein after a workout is optimal for building muscle. But what if this widely accepted notion isn’t entirely accurate? Recent research from Maastricht University suggests there might be more to the story. This challenges our understanding of how much protein is needed post-exercise to maximise muscle growth.

The Study Unveiled

Researchers at Maastricht University embarked on a study involving 36 healthy, active men. After engaging in a rigorous strength training session, participants were given protein drinks containing varying amounts of protein – zero, 25, or 100 grams. Over the next 12 hours, their muscle protein synthesis rates were closely monitored through blood samples and muscle biopsies.

Surprising Discoveries

Contrary to conventional beliefs, the study revealed that higher doses of post-workout protein led to sustained muscle protein synthesis. Participants who consumed 100 grams of protein exhibited significantly elevated synthesis rates compared to those who consumed 25 grams. What’s more, this heightened response persisted throughout the entire 12-hour observation period, challenging the idea of a cap on post-exercise protein effectiveness.

Unveiling the Implications

Refining Protein Timing

Traditionally, there’s been emphasis on consuming protein immediately after exercise to capitalise on the so-called “anabolic window,” which refers to the period immediately following a workout when the body is believed to be most receptive to nutrient intake for muscle repair and growth. However, this study suggests a more nuanced approach, indicating that the impact of post-exercise protein intake extends beyond the immediate aftermath of a workout.

Total Protein Intake Takes Centre Stage

While the study highlights the potential benefits of higher post-workout protein doses, it underscores the importance of overall protein consumption for muscle growth. Rather than fixating solely on post-exercise intake, prioritising daily protein targets within the range of 1.6-2.2 grams/kg body weight emerges as crucial for maximising muscle gains.

Optimising Protein Distribution

The study prompts a reevaluation of how we distribute protein intake throughout the day. While consuming 100 grams of protein in one sitting may not be practical for most, spreading protein intake evenly across four meals emerges as a promising strategy. This ensures a consistent supply of protein to support muscle repair and growth without solely relying on immediate post-workout consumption.

In the ever-evolving realm of sports nutrition, this study challenges long-held beliefs surrounding post-exercise protein intake. While the concept of an ideal post-workout protein dose undergoes scrutiny, the overarching importance of total protein intake for muscle growth remains indisputable. By adopting a comprehensive approach to protein consumption and embracing emerging research insights, individuals can navigate the complexities of post-workout nutrition to maximise their fitness goals


Trommelen J, van Lieshout GAA, Nyakayiru J, Holwerda AM, Smeets JSJ, Hendriks FK, et al. The anabolic response to protein ingestion during recovery from exercise has no upper limit in magnitude and duration in vivo in humans. Cell Rep Med. 2023 Dec 19;4(12):101324.:

Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376–84.

Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 27;15:10.

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