Episode #455 If I tell you that you need to time protein for optimal muscle & recovery, there begs your understanding of:
- Why protein timing is important for you now more than ever?
- How much protein are we talking about?
- What kind of protein counts and what doesn’t?
Before We Start – Be Forewarned
So that’s the topic of this post. However, I want to speak to the elephant in the room right up front. This for some ears may feel like an infomercial. I get it. That’s reasonable. I sell protein. I am sharing a link in this podcast to something I’ve used and tested and if you use it, I will make a small commission from it.
I too was so very skeptical of people who promoted supplements for decades. For 30 years I swore up and down I would never, ever, ever sell supplements. Until I realized there is so much junk out there – that even I’d fallen for it in my early 30s before I knew what I know now – that the hidden sugars, the “extra fortification even,” and ingredients like soy, and chemicals can actually sabotage you in the exact opposite way you’re trying to get results. Simply said, the very ingredients in many shake mixes can make you store fat instead of fueling muscle so you can burn fat.
That’s when I began to produce my own Flipping 50 protein. Because it’s clear that muscle is the organ of longevity (shout to my friend Dr Gabrielle Lyons) AND you can’t have the back-of-the-closet clothes OR the independence you want in 3 decades without the combination of strength training and muscle.
So Here It Is, Protein for Optimal Muscle and Recovery – in Menopause+
I’ve been asked over and over by our community about specific brands of Essential Amino Acids I recommend. I’ve been asked who may want to consider them. I’ve been asked how I use them. I’ve been using them myself and testing different brands since 2017. I’m ready to spill the beans.
Based on that, you may or may not want to continue. And I respect that.
I’ve been super conscious of getting adequate protein, especially post-workouts since I started training for my first marathon, 27 years ago. It was first after long runs that I began it and then realized the need for post strength training was even greater. That’s when I started supplementing three meals a day high in protein with post workout smoothies in addition to that.
As I trained for Iron distance triathlons I was ultra-conscious of heavy weight training (even though most endurance athletes shy away from it) and protein consumption to maintain both muscle and bone density. (With so much time on a bike and in a pool bone density ironically can take a hit during endurance training like that, and muscle wasting is very common because cortisol and under-eating is common in female athletes).
It wasn’t until I was 54 though, that I started to supplement with Amino acids to boost recovery from workouts and prevent muscle loss. But the types I tried, I hated. It was a plug-your-nose kind of powdered drink mix. And I couldn’t really stomach it.
What I’ve found currently isn’t going to appeal to anyone listening. At all. Because taking tablet form supplements is not on our bucket list. And if you’re like me, with a list of omegas, magnesium, Vitamin D, B, and a multi to mention a few, more supplements is not on my wish list.
But for me? It beats the alternative of a foul-tasting amino acid supplement. They don’t taste good so a flavored drink mix attempts to mask it. Literally, during one Ironman race, I was taking gel with amino acids on the bike and had to stop, lose my cookies, and continue. Honestly, I felt better! And stopped doing that for the rest of the race.
The Protein – Muscle Connection
Whenever we’re talking about strength training, the topic of protein can’t be far behind. And we’re always talking about strength training here, whether one of my 12-week STRONGER programs is open or the Café membership providing access to 7 unique programs is open or you’re just seeking a digital download to do at home.
Protein provides the building blocks for muscle. Essential amino acids are the building blocks for protein. If your protein doesn’t have all the essential amino acids – those your body has to ingest every day and can’t manufacture itself – then it’s not complete.
Incomplete proteins are like puzzles with missing pieces. You don’t get the results you want in the end. Plant-based diets and animal-based proteins are both under fire from someone. This post isn’t a judgement of your choice. It’s not a persuasive argument for one or the other. Your body is the final decision-maker, ultimately. The results speak for themselves. Get a Smart Scale and watch how your habits impact your muscle and fat.
Hopefully, you’ll find this episode does offer some possible solutions as to how you can solve these problems:
- Choosing plant-based diet and unable to eat enough protein
- Eating proteins that are lower in the amount of essential amino acids you need (plant)
- Simply getting full before you get enough protein in (animal or plant)
- Concerns with a lack of muscle, muscle tone, and strength
This is literally how I add amino acids to my day. A little later, I’ll discuss why, whether you want to prevent muscle loss, or you want to also lose fat weight, protein content is so important. What I think you’ll see is many if not most of us are going to hit a roadblock to becoming lean and stronger as we age without support.
How to Time Protein for Optimal Muscle & Recovery: A Typical Day for Me
7 am Pre-exercise
Or a simple shake of Flipping 50 protein, almond milk, and small amount of fruit
If not the protein shake before strength training, I’ll have a half a banana and smear of sun butter on a HIIT day
11 am Post workout: about an hour to 90 minutes later a high protein meal or a shake with the works:
Chocolate Cherry Recovery Smoothie
- 1-2 handfuls of spinach
- 1 serving Flipping 50 protein
- 3 T hemp hearts
- ¼ avocado
- 1-2 tsp cacao
- ¾ cup frozen cherries
- Almond milk to desired thickness (I like to spoon)
The protein powder plus hemp hearts get the protein to at least 30 grams. Spinach, avocado, cacao, and cherries, as well as the hemp hearts are all full of anti-inflammatory, antioxidants that do your body good after workouts. This can also be made with vanilla, though you’ll miss the cacao, it’s a yummy alternative. More ideas here.
Note: I forget too
If I’ve forgotten the pre-exercise amino acid tablets, I’ll add them about 20 minutes before either the post workout smoothie or lunch.
There are days when my schedule might mean that I have that pre-workout snack, then my post- workout smoothie or meal is lunch. That means there are only really two meals that day, so it’s tricky to fit in enough protein – in fact it’s downright impossible if you’re trying to lose weight and keep muscle – so the aminos are crucial.
I tend to have a lighter lunch. I’ll make a wrap from a brown rice tortilla and fill it with leftovers that might be fish tacos, or grilled chicken with kale & brussels sprouts salad. In the winter its usually a vegetable & protein-rich soup. When I make soups, I double the protein ingredients and stay conscious of whether I’ve got 5 ounces of protein in a bowl.
Back to the schedule
5:00 pm (sometimes earlier – which lets me fast overnight for a bit longer) I have an early dinner with tons of veggies, include a starchy option like a sweet potato, and protein. Summer is easy with grilling possibilities that let you grill nearly the whole meal.
8:30pm At bedtime on strength training days, I have 5 amino acid tablets. Your body still has an elevated muscle protein synthesis for up to 24 hours after strength training if you’ve really lifted to muscular fatigue. So, you prevent muscle wasting at one end and support lean muscle gains to benefit metabolism at the other end of the continuum by taking the aminos right before bed. (Remember that in elderly adults, bedrest is a real problem for muscle and strength losses. On a mini scale sleep overnight contributes to loss too). You might also get a better night’s sleep thanks to the tryptophan.
The combination of two meals and two doses amino acid supplements has given me the amino acid equivalent of 4 meals with about 30 grams of protein – about right for maintaining.
Variations in my schedule
If I workout earlier and lunch too I’d get the equivalent of 5 meals with about 30 grams of protein, a better number if I was wanting to lose weight. (Protein requirements increase as you try to lose weight with a caloric deficit). And you do have to remember muscle needs carbohydrates too, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can just take amino acids and not eat. It won’t work well for you.
Note that if I was just having a smoothie and a dinner, I would never do that on a high activity day or I simply have such a large gap between my energy demands and what I’m eating that my body will go into stress mode. That means it’s likely to breakdown muscle. That means fat storage and weight loss resistance, if you’re trying to lose weight. Are you following me? If you’re still using “eat less, exercise more” in midlife, you are contributing to your own muscle loss and fat gain.
I’ve been using Body Health’s Perfect Amino for about 8 weeks consistently. And it’s definitely making a difference. I use the tablets. I hear you, I don’t like taking supplements either. They make a powder and I’d suggest you try it. I have tried other amino powders and disliked them so I’m admittedly reluctant. But, taking one for the team, I’ve ordered the powder and I’ll do it for you. Check back and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Who I recommend consider aminos to improve protein for optimal muscle and recovery
- Women who are cutting calories
- Women are exercising without results
- Women who find they are too full to get enough protein
- Women who already notice muscle loss
- Women who are doing only plant-based or almost plant-based diets
And no, it’s not just a thing I do on workout days alone. But it is something I supplement every day with. I flex in the aminos when I’m more sedentary, when I am not eating enough protein, as well as workout days.