Skip to Content

If you’re looking to get in better shape, protein is a key player. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just want to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle, it’s important to understand how protein affects your performance, recovery and overall well-being.

Protein is more than just a source of energy—it is involved in a wide range of physiological processes such as immune response (antibodies), the transport of oxygen in the body (hemoglobin) and digestion (digestive enzymes). It is essential to an active and healthy lifestyle, contributing to bone and tissue growth and helping to repair damaged muscle tissue after intense or prolonged exercise.

Protein is also filling. It has been scientifically proven that when we consume protein, in foods or as a supplement, the body releases hormones like leptin that make us feel full and releases fewer hormones like ghrelin that trigger the hunger response. Protein therefore reduces food cravings, which is beneficial for weight management from a fitness perspective.

Here are the two main types of protein you will find on the market:

Whey protein

Whey protein is a staple in the exercise world. It is highly digestible and bioavailable, making it ideal for before or after training. Studies show that whey protein can increase muscle protein synthesis, which promotes muscle growth.

Plant-based protein

If you opt for a plant-based diet, plant-based protein like soy, pea and rice protein are great options. Although their bioavailability may be slightly lower than for animal proteins, they can still be effective for building muscle. Foods rich in plant-based protein include soy, spirulina, peas, brown rice, seeds, oilseeds and legumes.

Whey protein has a high level of bioavailability, which is the body’s ability to uptake amino acids. The quality of the protein source, a person’s individual needs, and the presence of other nutrients may affect bioavailability. To maximize the bioavailability of the proteins you consume, consider the following:

  1. Vitamins and minerals: Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium and zinc, which are essential for protein synthesis.
  2. Fermented products: Fermented products, such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, are rich in digestive enzymes that help break down proteins and allow for better absorption.
  3. Hydration: Drinking enough water is essential to maintaining optimal water balance in the body, which helps the body digest protein.
  4. Fibre: Dietary fibre from vegetables, fruits and whole grains helps with intestinal regularity, which is essential for proper protein absorption.

When is the best time to consume protein? Science has shown that starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast can stimulate the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel alert and motivated. Don’t just limit your protein intake to breakfast, though. Consuming protein throughout the day helps maintain a balance of amino acids in the blood, which supports muscle growth and recovery. If you are working out, focus on consuming protein in the hour following a workout, as this is when protein and carbohydrate absorption is optimal. This anabolic time window allows for muscle recovery.


In addition to a high-protein diet that is tailored to your needs, it is important to:

  • Choose a physical activity that works for you: Depending on your health, some activities may not be recommended, which is why it is important to seek professional advice.
  • Listen to your body: Give your body time to rest and train in a way that prevents injuries that would require you to stop working out.
  • Set realistic goals: Don’t expect to change everything overnight; set realistic goals that will keep you motivated and incorporate exercise into your routine.
  • Keep in mind that to get results and enjoy yourself, it is important to combine a variety of exercises, both indoor and outdoor, with a suitable protein-rich diet.

Jade Marcoux, Naturopath and ESNQ graduate

École d’enseignement supérieur de naturopathie du Québec

The health and medical information published or presented in this article is the opinion of the author only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should use their judgment. It is their responsibility to independently verify the information provided in the article. The contents of this article are for discussion and informative purposes only and should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. A medical professional is the only person who can evaluate your health and give you advice following a medical examination. Rachelle Béry will not be liable for any of the information presented in this article or in any associated links, nor the use or misuse of the information.

Sources and references:

1. Tipton, K. D., & Witard, O. C. (2007). Protein requirements and recommendations for athletes: relevance of ivory tower arguments for practical recommendations. Clinical Sports Medicine, 26(1), 17-36.

2. Res, P. T., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G. A., Gijsen, A. P., … & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44(8), 1560-1569.

3. van Vliet, S., & Burd, N. A. (2015). Dietary protein and muscle mass: translating science to application and health benefit. Nutrients, 7(11), 9993-10012.

4. Mobley, C. B., Haun, C. T., Roberson, P. A., Mumford, P. W., Kephart, W. C., Romero, M. A., … & Roberts, M. D. (2017). Biomarkers associated with low, moderate, and high vastus lateralis muscle hypertrophy following 12 weeks of resistance training. PLoS ONE, 12(4), e0175115.

5. Schaafsma, G. (2000). The protein digestibility–corrected amino acid score. Journal of Nutrition, 130(7), 1865S- S.

Millward, D. J. (2012). Knowledge gained from studies of leucine consumption in animals and humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 142(12), 2212S-2219S.

6. Cermak, N. M., Res, P. T., de Groot, L. C., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(6), 1454-1464.

7. Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., Kujbida, G. W., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 107(3), 987-992

8. Mamerow, M. M., Mettler, J. A., English, K. L., Casperson, S. L., Arentson-Lantz, E., Sheffield-Moore, M., & Paddon-Jones, D. (2014). Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 144(6), 876-880.

9. Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., … & Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 20(3), 236-244.

10. Rao, D. R., & Raman, M. (2017). Glucose, glucose regulation, and the brain. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 956, 49-68.