Should I drink a protein shake after my workout to help with recovery?

Actually, protein is not as important after a workout as replenishing carbohydrates. It is easy to think protein is the most important, but it is a myth that is perpetuated by supplement manufacturers and fitness participants that do not have a thorough understanding of how the human body works. During a workout, your body uses a combination of carbohydrates from muscle, called glycogen, and fat. Protein only makes a contribution as an exercise energy source if the activity is continuous and lasts for more than an hour or if the diet is seriously lacking in carbohydrates s or total calories. All studies show that to begin rapid recovery from a workout (weight or cardio/endurance) a liquid-based meal (recovery shake) should be used as soon as possible after the workout. The sooner the better, up to 45 minutes post-workout. This shake should be higher in carbphydrates than protein with a ratio of 2:1 for typical gym workouts and up to 4:1 for longer duration endurance activity. The carbohydrates help to start refilling muscle energy stores and signals the body to begin using testosterone and growth hormone to rebuild the muscle you damaged during workouts. This will ensure that you recover from the workout and are ready for the next workout. Consistently failing to recover well will lead to poor performance, poor progress, and a higher risk of overtraining.

Getting a good mix of simple sugars and protein within the first 15-20 minutes post workout is very important for recovery. A 2 to 1 ratio (carbohydrates to protein) is a good standard rule to follow for most workouts. We use an easy portable recovery drink when working with athletes outdoors. Start with a standard size bottle of Gatorade, we usually use orange because most people like the taste and add a vanilla protein packet (around 20-40 grams of protein depending on your size) shake it up and you have a nice orange dreamsicle. The Gatorade will give you the simple sugars for glycogen replacement and the protein for tissue recovery. Easy, portable and taste pretty good!

Continue Learning about Healthy Eating For Athletes

Plan Your Post Workout Nutrition
Plan Your Post Workout Nutrition
At over 6-feet and 8-inches tall, New England Patriot’s offensive tackle Trent Brown currently has a Super Bowl ring—and the title as the heaviest per...
Read More
What kind of snacks should I eat if I exercise?
Toby SmithsonToby Smithson
The body uses carbohydrates, protein, and a smaller amount of fat to power through a work out. Snack...
More Answers
Do I need “back pocket foods” (gels, beans, shot blocks, etc.)?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
These products are a quick way to replace carbohydrate and protect glycogen stores. Rule of thumb --...
More Answers
What Should I Eat Before a Workout?
What Should I Eat Before a Workout?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.