The sports nutrition industry is big business. It was valued at just over $50 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $81.5 billion by 2023. A large component of this industry consists of protein supplements, such as protein bars and protein shakes which are advised to be taken after a workout. However, do you know why this is?

Protein Is A Major Component Of Muscles

According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica, about 40% of the weight of a human – who weighs about 70kg – is muscle. Half of this is protein. In fact, protein is actually a significant component of every single cell in the body, with a person’s hair and nails being mostly made up of protein.

Protein is called a ‘macronutrient’ – as are fats and carbohydrates – but while the latter two are stored in the body, excess protein is excreted. This means that while the body can draw on reserves of fats and carbohydrates when it needs them – obviously assuming that the body has these stores – it can’t do so for protein.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have free licence to eat copious amounts of protein. Nutritionists say that a serving of protein has more or less equal amounts of calories as carbohydrates – and other – macronutrients do, so caution still needs to be exercised.

Muscles Break Down During Exercise

When you do exercise, such as weight-lifting or any other form of resistance exercise, the strain that your muscles undergo causes them to tear microscopically. This is nothing to be worried about – in fact, it is quite normal – and these tears repair themselves naturally.

These tears usually happen when an exercise is new and when they are repaired, the muscles become stronger and more equipped to handle the exercise better the next time you perform it. However, there comes a point when your muscles will no longer be affected by a specific exercise so, at this point, the exercise routine needs to be changed up so that cycle can start again.

So, if athletes and bodybuilders eat a protein-rich meal (such as lean chicken breasts or hard-boiled eggs) or snack (such as a protein shake or bar) after a workout, their muscles will rebuild bigger and stronger than if they had just let their body take its natural course.

Protein consists of amino acids, so if you want to make your muscles rebuild stronger and bigger, it’s recommended that you take amino acids before your workout. This – together with the post-workout protein snack/meal – will step up your protein synthesis.

Many professional bodybuilders look to develop a ‘pump’ in their muscles. This happens when your muscles swell during your workouts because of the increased amount of blood flowing to this area of your body. This is needed to achieve maximum muscle growth.  However, before you start to be totally focused on achieving this pump, reassess your fitness and muscle-building priorities – possibly even with a personal trainer – and develop a plan which works for you.