Post-Workout Nutrition: The Protein Shake

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Most people focus all of their attention on the “work” of working out. Unfortunately, this is where the attention stops and the biggest training mistake is made. You see, it’s not until you leave the gym that the muscles begin to recover and get stronger. The crucial recovery time that follows the workout is often a factor overlooked and underrated in training. It is also one of the main causes of stagnant workouts and mediocre gains. 

The good news is that there’s a surefire way to improve recovery, boost energy levels and accelerate muscle growth. It’s as simple as making a high-carbohydrate, protein-rich shake immediately after you exercise.

The Science Behind the Shake

There are a lot of things that are complicated, endlessly debated, and hypothesized about training, but this is one thing that virtually all experts agree on. It’s even backed by solid university studies. If you are training hard, and trying to improve strength and performance, you need to feed your body protein and carbohydrates within an hour after your workout.

Scientific data shows that right after exercise, your body needs nutrients, and it needs them bad. It stands to reason the most important time to feed the body is right after you’ve expended a significant amount of fuel. When you workout, your body burns up amino acids, glycogen, glucose, and enhances the breakdown of a whole bunch of substrates. 

Insulin, your body’s super-anabolic “storage” hormone, is also highly sensitive immediately after you train. Insulin’s main function is to transport amino acids, glucose and other nutrients into various cells of your body – including fat and muscle cells. These nutrients literally can’t get into the cells without insulin “unlocking” the door first. 

The trick lies in feeding your body protein and carbs as soon as you get done training, while insulin is highly sensitive and your muscles are very “receptive” as well. You see, your muscles are in somewhat of a starvation state at this time. They are like a dry sponge, waiting to suck up all the nutrients they lost during the workout. 

During this one hour post-workout window of opportunity, insulin will favor shuttling protein and carbs into your muscles cells, as opposed to fat cells. So in this instance, timing is everything!

What About Whole Foods?

You now hopefully understand the importance of post-workout nutrition, but what should you eat? First of all, a whole food meal is inferior to a nutritional shake at this time. This is because whole foods are digested much more slowly and require quite a bit of water for digestion. Rather than rehydrating the system, such as with a shake, a whole food meal may draw water out of the system. A good idea would be to have a balanced whole food meal 1-2 hours after your post-workout shake, which should be consumed within 10 minutes to an hour after the workout. 

How to Make Your Shake

A quick and economical shake for after your workout would consist of 1-3 scoops of protein powder mixed with 16 –20 ounces of fruit juice or fruit and water. Whey protein is your best choice for post-workout because it is the fastest digesting of all the proteins. Limit the fat in your post-workout shake to under 5 grams. Fat takes much longer to digest than protein and carbs and will limit the punch of the post-workout shake.

So, if you are working out hard, trying to improve your performance or build your body, you must feed it right after you train. You are virtually guaranteed to see a difference.