A friend of mine mentioned that eating protein before you workout is a smart idea because it burns more fat. Is there really any truth to this?
Your friend is likely referring to an often-cited Michigan State University study that was published in 2009.
When we talk about protein, it’s often about the role it plays in muscle growth – and the emphasis is often on post-workout protein consumption. For example, we know that consuming whey protein after a heavy strength training workout can help improve results.
But for the aforementioned study, researchers examined the role of pre-workout protein consumption on something called resting energy expenditure (REE). REE is the amount of energy, usually expressed in food calories, required for a 24-hour period by the body during resting conditions. For many of us, this measure is especially important because it can account for 60% – 75% of your total energy expenditure. If you increase REE, you burn more total calories – and, in theory, store fewer calories as fat.
In Michigan State’s study, experienced lifters were given either a whey protein supplement or carbohydrate supplement 20 minutes before working out. After 24 and 48 hours, REE was measured and compared to the baseline. While both supplements increased REE 24 and 48 hours after the strength training session, the whey protein supplement resulted in a much higher REE at the 24-hour mark compared to either the carbohydrate supplement or the baseline.
Keep in mind, increasing REE isn’t the same as burning fat. To make a very long story short, weight loss is achieved when you consume fewer calories than you burn. REE increases calories out, but that’s only one side of the equation. And weight loss isn’t the same as fat loss. What we call weight loss is really a combination of fat and muscle loss; to minimize muscle loss, continue with a challenging strength training program.
In other words, it’s a bit more complicated than your friend implied. But there is truth to his statement. If you want to incorporate the findings of this study, consume whey protein before working out. Keep in mind, post-workout whey protein and carbohydrates are also recommended for maximized results.
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