When do you take protein and when do you take carbs? Nutritionist Sharon Natoli clears up the confusion.
Training for general fitness
If you’re aiming for general fitness, it’s important to eat sufficient amounts of protein and carbohydrates to provide your body with the necessary energy needed to carry out your exercise session as well as maintain muscle.
The recommendation for protein and carbohydrates will be dependent on your appetite, and on the monitoring of your performance over time. On average, an amount of protein equivalent to 20g and carbohydrates of around 20g should be sufficient.
Training to lose weight
If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to provide carbohydrates and protein before and after a training session. The carbohydrates will provide your body with the energy it needs to perform well and maintain a good level of intensity during a workout, assisting your weight loss efforts.
The protein will help provide a foundation for building functional muscle, which is important for a stable resting metabolic rate and helping to maintain your weight loss long term.
Aim for lower kilojoule sources of protein such as cottage cheese, skim milk, skim yoghurt, tuna and eggs, and carbohydrates such as wholegrain crackers. Around 20g of carbohydrates and 20g of protein should be sufficient both before and after an exercise session.
Training around meal times can assist in reducing the need to add in extra snacks, which helps to keep your total kilojoule intake down to the level required for weight loss.
Training to build muscle
If you’re trying to build muscle, the amount of carbohydrates and protein before and after an exercise session is incredibly important, and it’s recommended that you aim for 30g carbohydrates and 30g protein on both occasions.
The carbohydrates will provide the energy needed to carry out your training session and also help reduce muscle breakdown during your workout. Protein is needed to stimulate muscle gain. It’s also important to eat foods containing protein regularly so you can maintain a steady supply of amino acids in the bloodstream.
You may benefit from including foods that are natural sources of the amino acid leucine, as this amino acid has been shown to be particularly useful for stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
It is found in dairy foods in high amounts, particularly the whey component, and is also naturally found in meat, chicken, eggs and fish, with smaller amounts found in almonds, tofu and lentils.