ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Eating Protein After Exercise is a good idea

Updated on March 9, 2013

Having some high-quality protein after exercise is a good idea. Why?

Protein provides the raw ingredient called amino acids that helps build and grow muscle. The muscles are most receptive to receiving these proteins right after strenuous exercise. Strenuous exercise (such as weight lifting and cross-fit) breaks down muscles and somehow the body knows that it needs to rebuild them with these amino acids. It is the rebuilding process that bulks up the muscles.

WebMD writes ...

"Muscles need protein for recovery and growth, and the best time to deliver protein appears to be right after exercise. Providing high-quality protein after exercise gives your muscles the fuel and the building blocks needed for both repair and for growth."

Protein for Muscles

Even if you are not a body builder and don't want to "bulk up", we want to maintain and not loose our lean muscle mass. As we age we lose lean muscle mass. According to Wikipedia, we loose about 0.5% to 1% of muscle loss per year starting after the age of 25. Eating high-quality protein after exercise is a good way to help prevent muscle loss.

Exercise Increases Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is the hormone that enables glucose fuel to get into the cells for energy. It is also the hormone that helps build muscles. Insulin is known as an anabolic hormone. That means that it build things up.

Exercise makes the cells are more responsive to insulin's signals. This is known as increasing insulin sensitivity. Medscape explains how exercise increase insulin sensitivity.

As we age and if we are sedentary we tend to become more insulin resistant. The cells are not as responsive to the signals of insulin. Exercise can help reverse this.

Becoming more insulin sensitive is a good thing. It means that fuel can easily enter the cell for use as energy.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to carbohydrates and, to a lesser extent, proteins in our meal.

When we exercise, our cells become more sensitive to insulin. And then when we eat, we trigger insulin is produced. Eating right after exercise make full use of insulin to shuttle glucose and amino acids into the cells for rebuilding. What great timing.

Carbs or No Carbs after exercise?

There are two opposing theories to whether we should add some carbs to the post-exercise protein meal.

On the one hand, if you really want to build muscles, you might also want to add a bit of carbs in that post-exercise protein meal. Because carbohydrates stimulates the pancreas to produce even more insulin than what proteins would alone.

However on the other hand, this is only a good idea if you are metabolically and physically active and are not diabetic or have any carbohydrate intolerance. If one is overweight or have insulin resistance, than carbs are typically something one would try to avoid.

Robb Wolf has a great post explaining both low-carb and high-carb in a post-workout meal.

Carbs and Exercise Boost Mood

As an interesting side note. Both carbs and exercise enhances mood. Why is that? Mood is enhanced when we have optimal levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is made from 5-HTP which is made from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in animal meat.

Unfortunately, of the various amino acids, tryptophan is lower in quantity than the other amino acids that are in meat. All these amino acids complete for access through the blood-brain barrier into the brain.

When we exercise and when we eat carbs, all these amino acids is directed to the muscles cells for rebuilding instead. All except for the amino acid tryptophan. While all these amino acids is busy rushing to the muscles, tryptophan just strolls right through the blood brain barrier into the brain unimpeded, where it then becomes the mood-enhancing serotonin.

Here is a quote from PsychologyToday...

"There is a body of evidence suggesting that eating carbohydrates along with protein can increase the tryptophan available to the brain. When carbohydrates are consumed, the body produces insulin, which diverts other amino acids to body muscles but leaves tryptophan untouched. With fewer competitor amino acids in the bloodstream, tryptophan more freely enters the brain, promoting calm and well-being."

Life Extension Magazine writes ...

"serotonin levels are enhanced by carbohydrate ingestion as insulin release accelerates the serum removal of other amino acids that compete for transport through the blood-brain barrier."

Here is a quote from the book The Mood Cure that says that the blood brain barrier ...

"is a selective filter that allows only so many amino acids to get into the brain at any given time. Because there's so much less of it to begin with, tryptophan can easily get lost in the shuffle..." [page 28]

What did hunter gathers do?

Our Paleolithic ancestors who hunted ate protein after exercise. Although they didn't call it protein, it was just meat food. And it was certainly not exercise in our sense of the word. To them, it was hard strenuous work running around hunting wild game and buffalo. And when they down one, they eat it right away. They didn't have refrigerators. And after they ate, they were in good mood.

In summary....

In summary, it goes like this....

1. Running around hunting wild game (exercise) improves insulin sensitivity so cells can receive fuel.

2. Ate protein, whose amino acid get rapidly shunted by insulin back into the muscle cells for rebuilding.

3. All the various amino acids get corralled into the muscles except for tryptophan. Tryptophan quietly goes through the blood brain barrier without needing to compete with the other amino acids for access. Once in the brain, tryptophan becomes serotonin the mood-enhancing hormone.

Wow. Whoever designed this biochemical system must have been a genius. It is likely that our current biological system has evolved to be optimized based on the hunter-gather scenario of catching and eating prey. So that is why is it optimal to eat protein after exercise.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      There is also quite a difference between animal protein and plant protein, of which is beyond the scope of this article to go into. But another hub explains the difference:

    • prasetio30 profile image


      5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. I learn something new here. I'll follow your tips. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!


    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      High quality protein is quite important for health. It is the raw ingredients that our body needs to rebuild and repair. Aim for at least some protein in every meal.

    • torrilynn profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi Blissful,

      I never knew how great protein is good for you after you exercise

      really great hub that you have here and I love the facts that you

      have included about proten and how it benefits you.

      Voted up.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great and well explained information that can be useful and beneficial to anyone who works out. Well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • joanwz profile image

      Joan Whetzel 

      5 years ago from Katy, Texas

      Really useful information. Especially for those of getting back into exercise after a year or two of vegging out on the couch.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)