If you’re trying to build muscle mass – increasing muscle mass in your legs empowers you to cycle harder, faster and for longer – then you need protein in your system before your start your workout and you’ll need to take protein afterwards also, preferably immediately, though definitely within 30 minutes of completion.
The sooner after your workout you take protein the better for the muscle recovery process. The protein you take can be in any form, and not necessarily a shake, as many of us like our light post-workout cardio and who brings a blender to the gym?
Why take a pre-workout protein shake?
Pre-workout protein has long been overlooked in favour of the traditional post-workout serving of whey protein, often mixed solely with water, but better mixed with other ingredients as a shake (see below).
Here are three reasons why you should take a pre-workout serving of whey protein.
1. Increase muscle synthesis
By taking a protein shake before your workout you’re starting the protein synthesis during rather than after your workout – this is known as ‘priming the pump’ – which results in greater muscle mass gains.
2. Provide your muscles with fuel
To get the most out of your workout your muscles need to be fuelled. Whey protein with BCAAs (Branch-Chain Amino Acids) is the muscle fuel of choice because it protects against the catabolic effects of exercise.
3. Speed up fat loss
Researchers at Syracuse University in New York State found that those who consumed protein pre-workout had higher metabolic rates than those who only consumed carbs.
According to the study author, Dr Kyle Hackney, “Consuming a protein shake and training speeds fat loss and helps build lean muscle.”
Why mix whey protein as a shake?
You need protein both before and after your workout but you’ll likely only have time to make a tasty protein shake once a day.
Whey protein powder can be mixed with water, but it’s better to mix it with other ingredients, including milk – almond, dairy, rice, soy, etc. – and fruit, particularly high-carb fruits like bananas and mangos that spike your insulin levels, aid the muscle recovery process, and help you to improve your cycling performance.