If you’re an athlete or have some serious workout goals, you know how important it is to get enough protein in your diet – and protein shakes are a tasty, nutritious, and totally convenient way to do that. But even if you’re just trying to tone up and slim down, carefully-planned post-workout protein shakes aid greatly in replenishing your body after movement, and giving your muscles the good nutrients you need for growth.
Some research suggests that as long as you increase the amount of protein in your diet, it doesn’t matter when you consume it – but many fitness experts still believe that eating a protein-packed meal or snack right after your workout can be highly-effective. However, even though protein is an essential element to post-workout nutrition, it’s not the only element that’s needed…
In this article, we’re going to tell you exactly what you should include in the best workout shakes to help replenish your muscles, and assist with muscle growth and weight loss. We’ll also give you some great, totally delicious recipe ideas for post-workout protein shakes! It all starts with one of the best protein powders – but the other ingredients you add into your workout shakes also matter! Read on to learn more…
Elements of the Best Post-Workout Shakes
You already know that getting enough protein is important to your fitness goals, but what about carbohydrates? Especially when you’re trying to lose weight, you may shy away from consuming too many carbs – but they should actually be an essential element in your diet if you’re very active. This is because typically, your body uses carbs as fuel. The only difference would be if you’re following a dietary plan where your body primarily uses fat for fuel (such as the keto diet), in which a different set of rules apply.
But, if you’re just trying to follow a simple, clean diet for weight loss and a healthy lifestyle, and you do a lot of physical activity every week, you need a good amount of both protein and carbs. Here’s how each macronutrient helps you specifically with your fitness efforts…
Protein for Muscle Growth and Recovery
When you exercise, the proteins within your muscles get broken down and damaged. Therefore, your goal when you consume protein after a workout is to give your body what it needs to repair and regrow those muscle proteins.
In particular, consuming the right amount of protein in a post-workout shake gives your body a flood of amino acids – that get to work repairing and rebuilding those proteins. A good way to view them is as “building blocks” that actually help to build you new muscle tissue.
So, how much protein is needed? When talking specifically about a physically active person, 0.14 – 0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight is recommended. This looks something like 20-40 grams of protein right after you exercise – depending on your individual metrics and also the level of physical activity you do.
Tip: Remember that all of the protein doesn’t need to be in your protein powder. Some of the best diet shakes for your fitness goals have 15-20g of protein, which is great. You can always add additional protein-packed ingredients into your shakes to get more if needed.
Carbs to Replenish Your Fuel Stores (Glycogen)
Next, another thing that happens when you workout is that your body uses something called your “glycogen stores” as fuel. What’s glycogen? In simple terms, when you eat carbohydrates, your body changes it into a form of sugar called glucose, which is used as energy. The glucose is then turned into glycogen, which can be easily stored in the muscles. Therefore, carbs = glucose = glycogen = energy and fuel!
The important thing to remember about glycogen is that you only have a limited capacity to store it within your body – so once you use it up during physical activity, you have to replenish it! Certain activities (like endurance sports including running and swimming), will require you to consume more carbohydrates than resistance training like bodybuilding.
Although everyone’s intake of carbs and all macronutrients will look different based on the level of physical activity and weight goals, it’s said that consuming 0.5 – 0.7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight, (within a 30 minute window after exercise), can effectively help replenish glycogen.
Should You Add Fat Into Your Post Workout Shakes?
Now, let’s talk about fat. Although carbs and protein are going to be the two most pivotal macronutrients in your diet when it comes to replenishing glycogen storage, and rebuilding muscle proteins, you should not be scared to add fat into your diet shakes.
The bottom line is, adding fat to your shakes will not reduce the effectiveness of the protein and carbs you eat – and it can also add a ton of nutrients that are actually beneficial to your workout efforts and recovery.
In fact, some fats, especially MCT Oil, can give you instant energy and mental focus that can actually improve workout performance – so they’re also a great addition to pre-workout shakes. Keep in mind that if it works better with your schedule to drink your workout shake before you exercise that’s okay too – because all of those nutrients will still be there and readily available when you’re done working out.
3 Great Post-Workout Protein Shake Recipes
Now that you know what elements to include in your workout shakes to help get the best results from your efforts, here are three ideas for sumptuous, delicious smoothies that will have you feeling your best after getting physical. Don’t forget to add one scoop of your favorite protein powder for an extra boost of nutrition! (Not sure what protein powder is right for you? Check out our Comparison Tool here.
Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Protein Shake
Orange Cream Protein Shake
Banana Protein Shake