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Fuel Your Strength 398 - Protein Around Workouts

Protein Around Workouts

Today we are capping off my series on protein by going into your questions surrounding protein and your training. We’re going to dive into what the research says and some of the best practices you can implement when it comes to your protein intake around your training.

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If You Want to Improve Your Protein Game, You Should:

  1. Understand your total daily protein intake
  2. Work to distribute that protein intake across all of your meals
  3. Ensure you are getting high-quality protein
  4. Consider specific timing when it comes to your protein and your training

Putting Knowledge Into Action

Feeling strong is a catalyst for expansion in all areas of your life. In order to feel strong, you need to make sure that you are getting enough high-quality protein, spreading it throughout the day, and understanding how it is working with your training to get you the results you are looking for.

Protein is essential to moving from muscle breakdown to muscle synthesis, so you must have the knowledge, guidance, and practical skills to implement this information into your routine.

It’s Up To You

It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a recreational exerciser or an elite athlete; protein is really important for your training, recovery, and overall health and longevity. This is especially true for active women over 40, as we need to create and implement new habits that will support our body’s needs as it changes.

Nobody is going to come out of the shadows and start feeding you the right things. But it doesn’t have to be scary. You must find a way to set aside time to make the big changes. By starting with just one meal a day and working your way up from there, you can make sure you are getting the high-quality protein that you need, spread out throughout the day and consumed in a way that will support your training and goals.

Are you ready to improve your protein intake in a way that will deliver you undeniable results? Share your thoughts about protein with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • Why your protein intake timing around training is the final pillar of the protein puzzle (6:02)
  • Understanding the protein window you need for your training (8:59)
  • What you need to know about protein intake, especially at breakfast (14:40)
  • Everything you need to know about the four pillars of protein intake series (19:07)
  • Tips for implementing your protein knowledge and getting better results (21:54)


“We can’t keep doing the things we were doing when we were in our 20s. We need a different approach. And we have to understand what that approach is based on our changing physiology in our 40s and as we go through life.” (5:04)

“You feel so much better when you have a small snack on board if you are training first thing in the morning.” (12:22)

“You need to stop the process of muscle protein breakdown, and you need to get the process of muscle protein synthesis going! For repair and recovery and building and all of those wonderful things.” (14:31)

“Once we are over 40, time becomes more and more of the essence when we are talking about building muscle and adding strength and quality life and our energy levels; this stuff ramps up in terms of its importance.” (20:59)

“You’ve got to start with one meal, dial that in first, then go to the other meals in the day. Because if you are just trying to be perfect at everything all at once, it is not going to work.” (25:45)

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Related Episodes

FYS 376: Peri-Menopause, Fasting, and Low Carb in Athletic Women with Dr. Stacy Sims

FYS 395: How to Calculate Your Daily Protein Needs

FYS 396: Should Protein Intake Be Spread Throughout the Day?

FYS 397: What is High-Quality Protein?

Protein Around Workouts Transcript

If you’re like many of the athletic women in my community, you’re always wondering, what’s the deal with protein around your training? What does the research say? What are the best practices, on this podcast episode, we’re going to be diving into this topic so that you’ll understand a little bit better what to do with protein intake around your training. We’re also going to summarize this entire series that we’ve done on protein and give you some practical tips that you can walk away with.

If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hard shit, the fuel your strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train and recover smarter, so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach, Steph Gaudreau.

The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery. And why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go!

Welcome back to the podcast. I’m so very glad that you’ve joined me today. Thank you so much. Whether you’re tuning in from your favorite podcast app, or you’re here on YouTube watching me, hello, then make sure you subscribe. In both places, it really does help. And while you’re on YouTube, subscribing, hit the bell for more notifications. And that way you can hear more about when we have episodes coming out.

On this show, we’re going to be diving into a sort of the last installment of this protein series that we’ve been doing here on the show all about protein and a deep dive into a lot of these different priorities related to protein intake for active and athletic women, especially if you’re over 40. What do you need to know and so if you haven’t yet listened to the other episodes in this series, I highly recommend you do that before you consume this particular podcast episode about protein intake, timing, and training. If we’re talking about the priority level here, this is a slightly lower priority item in the universe of protein that we’ve been talking about.

It’s not insignificant, but if you have no idea where to begin, or you’re just starting out, this is not the most beginner-friendly or useful, frankly, thing for you to start stressing out about, you really need to go back and do things like figure out how much daily protein you need, and what does that look like to think about how you’re spreading it across your day.

And then we talked about protein quality and what that means and how to make sure you’re just getting the highest quality proteins possible, depending on how you choose to eat. So if you’re just coming in, this is the first you’ve heard of me or you’re like newer to, to training or sports, or you’re sort of newer to this idea of fueling, then this is likely not the thing I want you to stress out about. Okay, so we have to keep that in, in perspective, if you will.

What we are going to talk about on this podcast is the protein window, you know, what does the research say about that? And in practical terms, what do we have to consume around our training? What does that even mean? And then we’re also going to look at just a little bit of a side topic into probably the most important meal of the day for protein intake, then we’re going to wrap it up by kind of giving you some practical takeaway tips, and what to do. Now I have to say that most of the time when my clients come in to work with me, they don’t necessarily need more information.

Many of you, if you’ve worked with me have listened to this podcast, you probably consume way too much information. Frankly, good quality information is important. But what you really need is help and support in the implementation phase, and putting it all together so that you can start building the habits, and getting through the stickiness of the mindset that you’re going to face. Because it does come up in building the systems in your life in creating an environment that’s supportive for you to actually put these things into practice. Because we can’t keep doing the things we were doing.

When we were in our 20s we need a different approach. We have to understand what that approach is based on our changing physiology in our 40s and as we go through life, post-40, what does that look like? So I really want you to if you’re curious, and you’re like, Oh, this is me, like I need guidance, I need to put it together, I know that on my own, I’m just not going to follow through or like, I’m going to hit these sticking points and come to a stopping point, then I want you to go ahead and check out Strength Nutrition Unlocked.

This is my signature program, where we put it all together, you have coaching, you have support, you have community, and you’re not doing it alone. And you see results so much faster, and we save you so much time because you’re not just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. So to find out more and apply, head over to StephGaudreau.com/apply. There, you can fill out the application, we’ll get on the phone with you and see if you’re a good match, can we help you and, you know, we’d love to welcome you into the community and see how you thrive.

Okay, so let’s go ahead and talk about timing, around training. This is really the final pillar. And as I mentioned in the sort of prequel to this episode, like, if you imagine a triangle or a pyramid, this is like the top toward the top of the pyramid in terms of importance. In other words, if we’re not eating enough protein during the day, at all, and we’re falling far short on that it’s a better idea to work on that first, than stressing and sort of worrying about how much protein around training in what timing and all those things.

But if you are someone who does have a really great handle on things like how much protein you need daily, are you distributing it evenly throughout your day? And are you selecting high-quality protein sources as much as possible? Then I would say this could be a topic that you’re like, Alright, I’m gonna set my sights on this and see how I can I hate this word, but optimize what I’m doing here.

So we need to sort of think about this in terms of why again, reminding you why is protein important for athletes and athletic people, even recreational athletes, I know some of you, it’s gonna be a side tangent and pay me a bit of a rant. Some of you hate the word athlete, you do not think you’re an athlete, you reject it at all costs because you think an athlete has to perform at a certain level or look a certain way. But really, you are training with consistency and intention. And it’s a part of your life and you are an athlete, just accept it.

Okay? be much easier to have this conversation. I say that with a lot of love. But suffice it to say, why did why does this matter for you as somebody who’s like going in lifting weights challenging yourself running peloton eating like, crossfading? You’re doing all this stuff? Why does this matter? Specifically when it comes to eating it around your workouts?

So protein timing is really a discussion that in there in people’s minds, has to do with things like bodybuilding. There had this concept of an anabolic window, it’s been long debated. And you know, it’s, of course, spilled over into these other disciplines, these other sports, and other fitness pursuits, if you will. So what do you know what’s going on here?

If you are training for things like competition levels of muscle hypertrophy, you know, you’re trying to be a bodybuilder, is what I’m trying to say, is there a magical post-workout window where if you get your protein in, you’re gonna like somehow maximize muscle protein synthesis? This is another question I hear. And like many topics in nutrition, whether any specific timing is going to be relevant to an individual will, frankly, depends. And whether there’s a narrow post-workout window for getting those nutrients in is really still being debated.

Let’s talk about that protein window, then. Most of the more recent consensus seems to be that what people believe was a teeny tiny, narrow protein window that you could take in your protein post-workout and like see any benefit from it is less like a tiny window or a tiny sliver, and more like a barn door is less likely that we’re measuring that quote-unquote, window of time.

In terms of minutes, you know, people used to be like, it has to be 30 minutes, it has to be 30 minutes. It’s more likely that we’re measuring this in terms of hours, a few hours, and less likely that if we miss the 30 minutes, then the window slams completely shocked. Okay, so I just want to put that out there and then I’m gonna do something in a minute, which is going to sound like I’m contradicting myself. So let’s say your total protein intake is optimal.

You’re eating three to five higher protein eating meals distributed across your day. And your total protein quality is pretty high. Hence, we just talked about that stuff in the previous three episodes. So go back and listen to those. If you haven’t yet, let’s say you’re taking off all those boxes. At that point, specific protein timing isn’t like the most critical thing for you. Right? If you’re like ticking those boxes, like, if you’re getting your protein an hour after you train, it’s probably going to be fine.

And you’re not going to notice a hugely detrimental effect to that delay, because you’re going to be eating another meal with that really solid 30 to 40 grams of high-quality protein relatively soon anyway. So when you spread those meals out across your day, it means that there’s a good chance that one will fall into that pre either pre-workout window or that post-workout window. So how we slice and dice it tends to not be as important.

Now, all that being said, if you are somebody who trains first thing in the morning, there is probably going to be an advantage to you not going into it fast in terms of especially we’re talking about more intense lifting, we’re talking about more intense cardio now, the cardio element, certainly we want to talk about carbohydrate, to really be the focus there.

So what I tend to recommend for people is a small snack-sized portion of carbohydrates, hopefully, something more on the fast digesting side, and a little bit of protein to just get your day started. And yes, you will be able to hopefully take advantage of that as fuel onboard and feel a lot better. So the research on like, oh, I have to do fasted workouts, because that’s going to help me burn more fat is not us, that’s been debunked, right?

But it’s still there, it’s still out in the world. So I see with most of my clients, this is sort of like anecdotally, from working with all of you, you feel so much better when you have a small snack on board. If you’re training first thing in the morning. Now, if you’re training more like at noon, you’ve tended to have, hopefully, gosh, at least one meal, before your noon, training session, it might be breakfast, breakfast, and a snack, or something like that. So you tend to have some fuel on board and it becomes less crucial if you’re eating something before training.

After training, though, we do want to think about giving you a good whack of protein after your training. Does it mean you have to like stress yourself out and get it in within that 30 minutes or you’ve lost the opportunity? No. Okay, so that’s the consensus of the research is that we haven’t lost the opportunity for muscle protein synthesis. If it’s minute 31, we’re going to be fine. I will caveat this and I said earlier, I was going to contradict myself.

I see in too many of my female clients that you wait for literally hours, hours after your workout before you eat anything. Because you’re busy, you have demands like you got to go back to work, like whatever the case may be, you just forget, I don’t you know, there’s a lot of factors here. But if you’ve just put in the effort to lift heavy, go hard, you know hard hit session, or whatever it is that you’re awake for hours, this is also not optimal either.

And so I need to like, give you the, of course, it’s like, if it’s not minute, you know, we don’t get our protein at minute 31 We’ve lost the opportunity. No, but do not wait hours and hours either. Especially those of you who are 40 and up and you’re like I’m just trying to put as much muscle on my frame as possible.

Now, so do not wait hours and hours and hours to eat a meal after you train that’s not serving you. And it’s like any benefit for you. It’s not giving you any benefit. Okay, you need to stop the process of muscle protein breakdown. You need to get the process of muscle protein synthesis going for repair and then recovery and building and all of those wonderful things. So that’s what we talked about in previous episodes.

The last thing I want to talk about in this episode before we move into a kind of wrapping everything up is protein intake at breakfast. I know there are so many people that are like I’m not hungry in the morning and many times that’s because you’ve trained your body not to eat earlier. Once you start introducing breakfast or small meals, and snacks, it’s could take a few weeks but you’ll start to notice you will regain that sense of hunger earlier in the morning.

Okay, I know that people think this is so controversial, like, of course, intermittent fasting has taken root in this athletic female population, especially over 40. And is really, I’m gonna be brutally blunt here is really fucking a lot of you over because you’re not, you’re there, it’s just causing way too many issues like you are starting the day, at within day energy deficit, you’re not getting that protein post workout or even anything pre-workout, you’re just like your sessions are really hard, you’re not recovering.

If you want to go more into intermittent fasting for female athletes over 40. See the episode I did with Dr. Stacey Sims, we went way more into depth on it here than I’m going to do here. So all of that being said, one area where specific timing does appear to have an advantage is in protein intake at breakfast.

Now we’re not going to get into the nitty gritty of like what time of the day does mean breakfast, it’s just getting something after you wake up, and not waiting until noon time or the afternoon to eat your first meal, there was the 20 to 21 paper that showed that the timing and distribution of a higher protein intake at breakfast, compared to leaving your higher protein intake until dinner was positively correlated with strength in skeletal muscle volume in healthy older women.

This finding held up even when breakfast protein was high, and dinner protein was lower. Now, yes, we still want to distribute our protein evenly across the date if we if, when at all possible. What this points to or seems to indicate is this circadian rhythm component to how our bodies utilize protein for muscle growth.

And, you know, again, this is the opposite pattern from what many women do with higher protein at dinner and minimal protein at breakfast. I’ve seen this literally twice in the last two days. One was an email that I got talking about from a person talking about their sort of eating patterns before and they were eating low protein and fasting. This is an athletic person. The other is someone that I was working with. And it’s very similar, right, like daily protein or daily food intake looked adequate in terms of calories, but it was shifted away from breakfast time.

So anecdotally, this is just me and my experience and working with people. When my clients make an effort to get a good protein-centered breakfast, they have much more stable energy and better appetite control across the day, they’re able to put more effort forth into their workouts, they’re not feeling as drained, they’re not feeling as sore. And they’re getting better results. From their training, they’re getting more muscle there are building more muscle, and they’re seeing higher strength numbers and progression over time.

So that’s the sort of takeaway message here, right? We talked about protein timing, this protein window, which seems to be much wider than was ever thought in the past, which is good. We don’t need to stress but we also don’t want to be very casual and wait for many hours to eat protein after a workout. Whether you need a specific source of protein a pre-workout for most people will come down to when does your workout happen? So we can kind of keep that in mind as well.

And if you’ve been hitting those more high-priority items, the necessity to stress about the pre or post-workout protein kind of fades away, because we’re taking care of it in those other meals. All right. So let’s go ahead and kind of summarize everything and kind of give you the bullet points for this whole entire series. Okay, so prioritize your daily protein intake. We have recapped four pillars here for active athletic women. I don’t care if you call yourself an athlete or not, you’re training, you’re intentionally working out you have goals, and you’re working out with purpose and intention.

You fall into this category, even if you would call yourself more of a recreational exerciser or your elite like it’s it all matters. Okay, so number one, pillar one the most important, total daily protein intake, and number two, the daily distribution of that protein intake across your meals. Number three is protein quality and number four is specific timing considerations. So it’s important to point out that these are like independent variables changing one will have an impact on the others. And frankly, this is where a lot of you do need support from a coach. And again, I’m more than happy to discuss with you what that would look like for you. So go ahead and get on our call calendar over at StephGaudreau.com/apply shall apply. But a lot of you need help in the implementation.

You’ve listened to the information, you are intelligent, and you understand why it matters. But it’s putting it together, it’s getting through those sticking points, it’s saving the time because we don’t have once we’re, once we’re 40, or higher or older hires elsewhere, once we’re older than 40 Time becomes more and more of the essence when we’re talking about building muscle and adding strength and quality of life. And our energy levels like this stuff ramps up in terms of its importance, and in terms of the fact that we don’t have as much time to spend the kind of doing it all ourselves and you know, making all the mistakes and like let’s just save the time and get better results now.

Okay, so if you’re struggling, you’re like, I’m just like, how do I make this all work? I promise you, it’s not you. It’s just, you have to be able to pull back, you have to have the experience, you have to have the knowledge of the sticking points that people face, the mindset challenges that you will get into along the way. That is where guidance is valuable. And that’s what we do in strength nutrition unlocked, and the other nutrition offers that I have as well. So let’s kind of break this down here and recap, and summarize the practical recommendations.

So these are my broad brushstroke recommendations right, make sure that your total daily protein intake is at least 1.6 grams per kilogram. Again, there’s variety here, there are rooms to cut, there is room to customize, and take your unique situation into consideration. But this is just general, right, consume three to four meals of 30 to 40 grams of protein distributed across your day.

Keep your protein quality high, with a bias toward if you can, and you’re willing to protein-dense animal food sources do not forget, of course, plants are a vital part of a nutritious diet, for the micronutrition for your gut health, for your fiber minimums for deliciousness plants are important. But if you are open to and willing to protein, dense animal food sources are going to give you the highest quality protein in terms of digestibility and essential amino acid content.

Eat one of those meals as breakfast. And after one of your main training is in one of those after your main training session for the day, if breakfast doesn’t already cover that. So again, how we define that and apply it for you is going to vary. But we’d really really like to see you eating breakfast. I know you’re protesting right now you’re rolling your eyes, but I promise you in almost I mean, I can’t think of a single person who was like that was the worst thing I ever did.

People, the clients that I work with the women that I work with, notice so much more of a benefit, frankly, from getting a solid distribution across the day and making one of those earlier in the day if you tend to put off eating a meal until much later typically, and this is a process. Right and in terms of things that support this information, I mentioned this earlier, you’re gonna, your habits are going to have to change.

And that includes things like shopping, meal, prepping, eating, setting work aside, not skipping lunch, and making time in your calendar. If you’re self-employed, which I know some of you who listen to the show are your own boss, and you’re like every day you’re working through zoom meetings. You’re working through lunch on Zoom, you got to find a way to and I know I say that and you’re gonna think she doesn’t understand. I do understand but no one can.

I don’t know anybody here that like somebody’s going to come and feed you like feed your grapes. No one’s feeding your grapes. Right? You have to set the time aside. I know it’s hard. It’s not the easiest thing. But you have to start somewhere. Where do you start? I mean, I am a huge fan of starting with like one meal at a time. Right? If you can, try to just start in one place and not do too many things all at one time.

I know we talked about plant-based protein in the previous episode, so again, I would recommend using an isolate like soy or pea and rice. And you can have those alongside your main whole food meal if you need to. And of course, that’s just something to consider. So we can go in a lot of different directions in terms of how you actually apply this and make it customized to you.

But ultimately, you’ve got to start with one meal and dial that in first, then go to the other meals in the day, because we’re just trying to be perfect at everything all at once, it’s not going to work, you’re going to get overwhelmed, and you’re going to say, Fuck this, I’m not doing this anymore, this is too hard. And you’re going to just go back to your old habits.

So there are lots of ways to customize this, keep those four big pillars in mind. And if you’re like, I need help with this, because I I’ve been trying to and I’m like, I’m still really finding it too hard, then come and work with us in Strength Nutrition Unlocked, at least get an application and we can, you know, get you on a blueprint call and start talking to you talking with you about where are you at? And where’s the gap? And can we help you close that gap? What do you need to close the gap?

What do you need to start taking your training results, your energy, your strength, and your muscle performance? That’s just it’s performance in life. It’s not just performance in your workouts. It’s what your workouts enable you to do, how you feel, and how you be outside of workouts.

Because hopefully, you’re doing this for a long time. You’re doing this because being strong is such a catalyst for expansion in your life, feeling strong, feeling capable, and confident in your body. And having the energy to do those things is a catalyst for exploring, to doing challenging things, and growing. That’s why we do this. It’s not just to have hot-looking muscles for beach season. I mean, that could be one of your goals. But if that’s the only reason you’re doing this, it’s not going to last. So I hope this series on protein has been useful for you. Of course, there’s a mountain of nuance beyond what we even talked about.

And it probably scratched a little bit deeper than just the surface, which I’m hoping so. Go ahead and leave a comment, tell us what you think about this episode or this series. It would be really interesting to see what you’re going to take away, what you’re going to implement, and what really stuck out for you. On your podcast app, hit subscribe. And of course on YouTube, hit subscribe as well and ring the bell for notifications. You can get the show notes for this episode at StephGaudreau.com.

And you can apply for strength nutrition unlocked, which is my signature program over at StephGaudreau.com/apply dot com slash apply. Okay, I finally made it through all of that. I’m really getting used to recording my video again and I keep looking at myself and thinking oh my gosh, you’re gonna mess up those words is so different than just recording this on audio. So thanks for bearing with me. Thanks for being here. And go ahead and stay tuned for the next episode that comes out of the school year strength podcast. And until then, stay strong.

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


Purpose built for strength, fitness, and athleticism. This is a templated, app-based 12-month progressive strength program for women over 40.


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