Every guy in the gym knows he should consume some protein after a workout. But how much, and when? "When you work out, your muscles are primed to respond to protein," Volek says, "and you have a window of opportunity to promote muscle growth."
Volek recommends splitting your dose of protein, eating half 30 minutes before the workout and the other half 30 minutes after. A total of 10 to 20 grams of protein is ideal, he says. And wrap a piece of bread around that turkey, because carbs can raise insulin; this slows protein breakdown, which speeds muscle growth after your workout. Moreover, you won't use your stored protein for energy; you'll rely instead on the carbs to replenish you.
One study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, pinpointed 20 grams as the best amount of postworkout protein to maximize muscle growth. (See 5 Perfect Protein-Packed Gym Snacks.)
You're doing this because resistance exercise breaks down muscle. This requires a fresh infusion of amino acids to repair and build it. "If you're lifting weights and you don't consume protein, it's almost counterproductive," says Volek. Protein also helps build enzymes that allow your body to adapt to endurance sports like running and biking.