Should You Take Protein During a Workout? (Brought to You By Kaged Muscle)

The timing of your protein intake is as important as the amount you take.

This piece is brought to you in paid partnership with Kaged Muscle. We may receive commissions on items purchased through links on this page.

How do you fuel your workouts? Is it best to take a pre-workout supplement? An intra-workout? A post-workout? A combination of all three?

A pre-workout supplement can offer benefits on the way to the gym — such as modest improvements in power and endurance. (1) Consuming a combination of protein — through a supplement like Kaged Muscle Micropure® Whey Protein Isolate — and carbohydrates post-workout can increase lean mass. (2) Should you consume an intra-workout supplement too? The simple answer is yes, but there are nuances to be aware of.

Let’s dive into the reasons why consuming an intra-workout supplement, which is ingested during training and quickly absorbed to fuel the body, can be beneficial to your training goals and how to time it during your workouts.

Kaged Muscle Micropure® Whey Protein Isolate
Kaged Muscle Micropure® Whey Protein Isolate
Kaged Muscle Micropure® Whey Protein Isolate

Kaged Muscle's whey protein isolate formula boasts a high 25 grams of protein, one gram of fat, and just four grams of carbs. It also contains an enzyme that breaks down the protein for optimal digestion.

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. 

[Related: The Ultimate Workout Split to Build Strength and Muscle Mass]

What Is Intra-Workout Supplementation?

An intra-workout is an ingestible supplement, often, liquid, comprised of either carbohydrates, protein, or both. It is consumed during training to maintain glucose levels in the muscles and therefore stave off fatigue.

Carbohydrates consumed during training have been shown to oxidize at approximately one gram per minute. A liquid supplement, six percent of which is a combination of carbohydrates and protein, ingested during resistance training can slow muscle degradation. (3)

How Much Intra-Workout Should You Take?

Ingesting dietary protein during training allows for muscle protein synthesis to reach maximal levels. (4) Although many whey protein powders on the market have single-scoop servings that contain 20 to 25 grams of protein, the ideal intra-workout protein intake might require reaching back in for a second scoop.

During a full-body resistance training session, the optimal amount of protein to consume is closer to 40 grams for men. (5) Women should not shy away from the protein mid-workout either since “female strength athletes may require more protein…to attain positive nitrogen balance and promote protein synthesis,” according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. (5)(6)

That approximate two-scoop serving has been shown to stimulate greater muscle protein synthesis, a metabolic process where amino acids are incorporated into bound skeletal muscle proteins. (7) Additionally, ingesting protein during training may inhibit muscle protein breakdown. (8

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[Related: Nutrition for Bulking — 10 Tips for Intelligent Muscle Gain]

Notably, there is no significant beneficial difference to consuming an intra-workout with just protein compared to one with both protein and carbohydrates in terms of protein synthesis.

However, that is not to say that you should avoid intra-workout supplements with carbohydrates, particularly for athletes training in longer sessions of strenuous exercise. Consuming carbohydrates during training has been shown to delay fatigue by up to an hour as it helps maintain blood glucose concentration. (9)

Supplement Timing

An Intra-workout supplement is taken during the workout. That intra-workout timing is key to hitting specific body composition goals. Taking a pre and post-workout supplement — meaning before and after a resistance training session — is likelier to increase lean body mass than taking supplements solely in the morning and evening. (10)

Ingesting a protein and carbohydrate supplement during resistance training can suppress exercise-induced cortisol release by 27 percent. This means you’ll likely be able to train harder for longer, as cortisol is associated with fatigue. (11)(12) Conversely, not taking an intra-workout supplement may increase cortisol release by upwards of 56 percent.

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For any training session that lasts 70 minutes or longer, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has taken a position stand that consuming a carbohydrate supplement throughout resistance training sessions “has been shown to promote euglycemia and higher glycogen stores.” Combining that carbohydrate supplement with protein “increases muscle glycogen stores, ameliorates muscle damage, and facilitates greater acute and chronic training adaptations.” (13)

Stay Fueled

Next time you head to the gym after taking your pre-workout, make sure your gym bag contains your intra-workout supplement too. The combination of protein and carbohydrate intake during your training session will likely lead to better results outside the gym and delay fatigue inside the gym. Consuming pre, intra, and post-workouts may seem like a lot, but giving your body the fuel it needs to recover pays dividends in the long term.

References

  1. Beckner, M. E., Pihoker, A. A., Darnell, M. E., Beals, K., Lovalekar, M., Proessl, F., Flanagan, S. D., Arciero, P. J., Nindl, B. C., & Martin, B. J. (2020). Effects of Multi-ingredient Preworkout Supplements on Physical Performance, Cognitive Performance, Mood State, and Hormone Concentrations in Recreationally Active Men and Women. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003660. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003660
  2. Rankin, J. W., Goldman, L. P., Puglisi, M. J., Nickols-Richardson, S. M., Earthman, C. P., & Gwazdauskas, F. C. (2004). Effect of post-exercise supplement consumption on adaptations to resistance training. Journal of the American College of Nutrition23(4), 322–330. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719375
  3. Bird, S. P., Tarpenning, K. M., & Marino, F. E. (2006). Liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion during a short-term bout of resistance exercise suppresses myofibrillar protein degradation. Metabolism: clinical and experimental55(5), 570–577. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2005.11.011
  4. Macnaughton, L. S., Wardle, S. L., Witard, O. C., McGlory, C., Hamilton, D. L., Jeromson, S., Lawrence, C. E., Wallis, G. A., & Tipton, K. D. (2016). The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. Physiological reports4(15), e12893. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.12893
  5. van Loon L. J. (2013). Role of dietary protein in post-exercise muscle reconditioning. Nestle Nutrition Institute workshop series75, 73–83. https://doi.org/10.1159/000345821
  6. Volek, J. S., Forsythe, C. E., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Nutritional aspects of women strength athletes. British journal of sports medicine40(9), 742–748. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2004.016709
  7. Witard, O. C., Bannock, L., & Tipton, K. D. (2021). Making Sense of Muscle Protein Synthesis: A Focus on Muscle Growth During Resistance Training, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (published online ahead of print 2021). Retrieved Nov 11, 2021, from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/aop/article-10.1123-ijsnem.2021-0139/article-10.1123-ijsnem.2021-0139.xml
  8. van Loon L. J. (2014). Is there a need for protein ingestion during exercise?. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)44 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S105–S111. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0156-z
  9. Coyle E. F. (1992). Carbohydrate supplementation during exercise. The Journal of nutrition122(3 Suppl), 788–795. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/122.suppl_3.788
  10. Cribb, P. J., & Hayes, A. (2006). Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Medicine and science in sports and exercise38(11), 1918–1925. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000233790.08788.3e
  11. Bird, S. P., Tarpenning, K. M., & Marino, F. E. (2006). Liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion during a short-term bout of resistance exercise suppresses myofibrillar protein degradation. Metabolism: clinical and experimental55(5), 570–577. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2005.11.011
  12. Kumari, M., Badrick, E., Chandola, T., Adam, E. K., Stafford, M., Marmot, M. G., Kirschbaum, C., & Kivimaki, M. (2009). Cortisol secretion and fatigue: associations in a community based cohort. Psychoneuroendocrinology34(10), 1476–1485. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.05.001
  13. Kerksick, C. M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B. J., Stout, J. R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C. D., Taylor, L., Kalman, D., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Kreider, R. B., Willoughby, D., Arciero, P. J., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Ormsbee, M. J., Wildman, R., Greenwood, M., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Aragon, A. A., & Antonio, J. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14, 33. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4

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