• Gelatin: Not for Post-Workout Recovery

    Gelatin: Not for Post-Workout Recovery | stupideasypaleo.com

    Gelatin is not a good protein choice for post-workout recovery.

    Now, let me note, gelatin is great for some things (click here to read), but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately: bloggers recommending gelatin as the sole source of post-workout protein. This is not only misguided, it’s just straight up wrong. Yes, gelatin has amino acids, but when you look closely, there are some reasons it can’t substitute as a proper protein source for post-workout recovery.

    What’s the Issue?

    Gelatin is a type of protein obtained from animal connective tissue and is rich in collagen. You know how when you cook a chicken and refrigerate it in the pan and there are jiggly meat juices at the bottom? That’s because of gelatin.

    It’s got lots of two amino acids—protein building blocks—called proline and glycine. Keep those two names in mind for a moment. These amino acids are considered non-essential which means our bodies can manufacture their own supply. Adding gelatin to your diet—be it through bone broth or gelatin supplements—can certainly have benefit to the digestive system and to your joints (click here to read more), but it’s relatively useless at building muscle tissue because it’s so low in branched chain amino acids.

    And that is a problem.

    Building Muscle is the Name of the Game

    When you train, you incur microscopic damage to muscle tissue, and the goal of protein intake in your post-workout nutrition (and frankly, the rest of your diet) is to provide substrate to begin the rebuilding it. If you want to be fancy, this process is called muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

    Here’s the rub: The high proline and glycine content found in gelatin are not helpful for MPS.

    Rather, a special subcategory of amino acids called branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the ones most important to MPS. Leucine, valine and isoleucine are the three BCAAs—so termed because of their non-linear structure, and they’re found in most abundance in animal protein sources. One other key: The BCAAs are essential which means they can’t be directly manufactured by the body, unlike proline and glycine.

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    Putting It All Together

    To maximize muscle repair and growth—important processes for all athletes regardless of sport—adequate intake of nutrient-dense dietary protein from animal sources provides the best bank of the amino acids needed for these mechanisms.

    Yes, you can get protein from plants but it’s far less dense and you’d have to eat far more food volume to get enough. Not to mention, plant sources of protein lack B vitamins and other critical nutrients that are readily available in animal sources.

    Gelatin, while it is rich in amino acids, does not contain the ones needed to build and repair muscle, and athletes need to make wise choices in the post-workout window; eating gelatin instead of meat, eggs, seafood or even a supplement such as whey protein is not one of them.

    Get my free PDF of source of dense protein sources for athletes.

    To read more about the importance of protein for athletic performance and how much to eat, check out my ebook, The Paleo Athlete and for recipes, check out my print book, The Performance Paleo Cookbook!

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    Gelatin: Not for Post-Workout Recovery | stupideasypaleo.com

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    Performance Paleo Cookbook | stupideasypaleo.com

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    35 thoughts on “Gelatin: Not for Post-Workout Recovery

    1. Wonderful post, sweetie! I think it was a great topic to address. I don’t believe I’ve read an article on this issue yet! So great job 🙂 I know the benefits of gelatin and have even thought “hmmm that would be good post workout!” without even thinking of the types of amino acids in contained! I’ve never had gelatin before, but now I know (when I do) not to have it pwo 🙂

      loved this!

      1. Yay…I’m glad it helped, Meg! It’s not that gelatin is bad…in fact, it’s really quite awesome but in that post-workout when we want to maximize MPS it’s not the best choice 🙂

        1. So can it be added to a whey protein shake postworkout? Can I take it pre workout? When’s the best time to take this because it is loaded with all aminos!

          1. Hi Jake,

            That’s the thing…it’s not loaded with all aminos. Yes, it has a variety, but it’s heavily biased toward amino acids not involved in protein synthesis. You could certainly add it along with a whey protein supp. Again, pre-workout you’re trying to prime the pump with substrate for muscle protein synthesis so taking it on its own isn’t great. I would either combine it with whey, as you mentioned, or add it in throughout the day in the form of bone broth or gummies. It can even be added to coffee if you use the collagen hydrolysate form! Hope that helps.

    2. You said that valine is a nonessential amino acid then in the very next Paragraph you call it a BCAA, can you please clarify?

      1. My apologies. There was a typo. It should read: “It’s got lots of two amino acids—protein building blocks—called proline and glycine.” I realize I stated gelatin was high in valine. That was incorrect.

    3. Whey is deficient in arginine though. It’s a conditionally essential amino acid so you can make it from some other amino acids but not from scratch.

      1. Hi there,

        The article was focusing specifically on gelatin’s BCAA content which is why arginine wasn’t mentioned.

        1. Yeah, I just wanted to point it out since some people seem to get most of their protein from whey =)
          And I was almost about to jammer on about arginine supplements so you got off easy with just the two sentences :p

          1. I’ve always viewed whey as a supplement and not a whole food because it is incomplete and it is processed. Eating whole sources of animal protein will always provide the best nutrition bang for the buck, and protein supps. are only usually advantageous when used to fill a gap or because of convenience factors.

    4. Hi Steph – I’m allergic to dairy, so I can’t do whey protein. Is hemp protein good for post-workout? Thanks!

      1. My next preference after whey in that case would be egg white protein. I just have a hard time getting behind plant protein powders for the most part.

        1. And if allergic to diary and intolerant to eggs…YUP rather unlucky!

          I still like to choose a plant based, although most taste horrid I have found one I like. I still like the convenience if for one reason or another I can’t have a meal after training. But there are gelatin based proteins now I think with added BCAA’s.,.i think.

    5. If I supplement with a BCAA product during my workout, would that cover shortage? I’m also eating a protein rich diet, just thinking the collagen protein would be beneficial instead of my whey protein (I only use about 1/2 a scoop daily anyway)

      1. Generally dosages of BCAAs average around 10 grams / serving. That’s nowhere near enough for post-workout. Again, collagen would be good to *add* but not replace. Hope that makes sense.

    6. I can’t have dairy or egg whites, so those powders are out for me. Any other powders that would be good for a quick après workout when necessary? Or would it then be preferable that I actually eat some meat and a carb?

      1. You could try something that’s plant-based but honestly at that point, I just recommend folks eat real food.

    7. I have been training pretty hard in the gym lately, for performance, weight loss and muscle building. Leg day always leaves me very sore for 3-4 days. Post workouts have been suggested to me and I’m trying to find the best one. I have been trying to research online about it and found your post after someone who usespecially some sort of collagen as a post workout. I do take whey protein and a GNC rep advised that a certain one would eliminate that soreness because it contained those amino acids you spoke about, however, I have found that this is not true at all…..my next stop was to buy a specific post workout supplement, do you have any advice?

      1. Hi Lillian,

        The issue may be in the type of training you’re doing. Also, post-workout is only one piece of the recovery equation. Sleep, overall nutrition, mobility work, etc all play a role.

        You honestly cannot eliminate all soreness just by taking a BCAA-rich protein post-workout. The purpose of post-workout protein is to give the body extra substrate for repair and growth but if you’ve done damage already, it’s hard to avoid soreness 100%.

        Also, if you’re not addressing inflammation in other ways, it’s pointless to buy some expensive GNC supplement.

        Do you mind describing what your strength training looks like?

    8. Hi,
      Can you recommend anything about nutrient timing. When to eat pre and post workout? Timing for carbs, protein, and fat?

      Thank you so much:)

    9. So I have a specific question. What product can we add to our gelatin supplement to equalize the amino acids. I’m thinking about brewer’s yeast, which has decent portions of valine, leucine, and Isoleucines.

      I don’t use it as a post workout supplement, but I’m curious, because many grassfed whey proteins are expensive

      1. I suppose you could use that but I would get the best possible. If one would go to all that trouble, I guess I would kind of ask why not just eat meat or eggs?

    10. Hi, I understand it´s not meant to be taken as a post workout supp. by itstelf because of it´s lack of muscle building aminos, but if you mix it with another source of protein and fast carbs, would it help in anyway just as a protein source?
      I´m considering taking collagen hydrolysate as a supplement for muscle building, but I´d still eat all kinds of other natural sources during the day. Is it still a good source for meeting the protein macro?

      Thank you!

      1. If you mix it, you should be fine, but remember it’s not really a complete protein, so I wouldn’t rely on it to fill large gaps in your protein intake. As a supplement, it’s fine though.

    11. Hi Steph,

      Thank you for this article (and your stellar blog)!! I make a smoothie nearly every morning. Any thoughts on using this as my protein source instead of my usual plant-based protein powder? I’m trying to remedy leaky gut, not build muscle so much at this point, so I was curious as to whether this would be a decent option for a first protein source of the day.

      Thanks again!

      1. For the first protein source of the day, gelatin is incomplete. I don’t recommend making it your first protein source of the day. For example, it’s not rich in tryptophan, the protein your body uses to make serotonin, which is made into melatonin (the sleep hormone). Eat a complete protein source for breakfast. I’m not sure what’s in your plant-based protein powder but at the very least, I would ADD the gelatin to it, not sub it out.

        On that note, I really encourage people not to drink a smoothie as breakfast. It digests pretty fast (it’s already been liquified by you) and can set people up for feeling hungrier throughout the day.

    12. Hi- just finding this article. Do you have the same opinion of collagen as post workout protein source. The whey I have been using seems to leave me extremely gassy and bloated so I’m looking to an alternative.

      1. Gelatin and collagen are basically the same thing. Collagen is just denatured which is why it can’t gel anything, but it’s also very very low in BCAA. If you can’t find a protein powder that suits you, stick to real food.

    13. Hey Steph.

      Was looking at your posts n feedback n decided to comment.. I recently been taking collagen and adding it to my smoothies throughout the day. Does the same thing go for collagen n the be dots of it before and after the gym? I’m taking collagen peptides and figured it would be good source of aminos to add in repairing and ligament support amongst other things. I understand BCAA’S are the better aminos as far as aminos go but do you recommend before and after gym and will it help?

      1. Hey Geoffrey…I recommend using them (if you chose to) as an extra supplement but not in place of a BCAA-rich protein source. Hope that helps.

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