For many years we have surely become accustomed to hearing the phrase "anabolic window" when it comes to consuming protein after exercise. This commonly used phrase is referring to a short time period after a workout where many believe it is advantageous to consume high amounts of protein in their quest to add muscle. While it certainly doesn't hurt to eat protein immediately after a workout, it ultimately does not provide an advantage. Most importantly, our true goal should always be to prioritize high protein intake throughout the day. This idea is evidenced in a study by Jager et al. 2017, where they find "skeletal muscle is sensitized to the effects of protein and amino acids for up to 24 hours after completion of a bout of resistance exercise". In other words, our bodies are more responsive to protein the following 24 hours after exercise, meaning there is no rush to consume protein immediately after our workouts.
Considering the above, it could still benefit us to consume a protein dose of 20-40 g post exercise. The previously mentioned study by Jager et al., stated this amount helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis and promote a positive nitrogen balance. Anything above this dose of protein will not provide additional benefit, as we would struggle to digest it.
The bottom line when it comes to protein post exercise is that it has its benefits, but isn't absolutely necessary immediately post workout. Instead, our focus should be on a higher cumulative protein intake the following 24 hours and we will reap the benefits.
Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, Cribb PJ, Wells SD, Skwiat TM, Purpura M, Ziegenfuss TN, Ferrando AA, Arent SM, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Taylor LW, Wilborn CD, Kalman DS, Kreider RB, Willoughby DS, Hoffman JR, Krzykowski JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 June 20;14:20. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8. PMID: 28642676; PMCID: PMC5477153.