As we all know, the right workout is only half the battle. Proper nutrition will make the difference between a great and an average body. When it comes to post workout shakes, you will notice a lot of debate online over their importance and what makes up the perfect shake. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bro-science and myths out there, so let’s take a look at some science-based facts, so you can decide for yourself.
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Do You Even Need A Post Workout Shake?
The short answer is: not really. This might surprise you because we have all been told about the “anabolic window” and how after a workout, your glycogen stores (carbs stored in the muscle) are depleted. To avoid muscle breakdown, you need to take in protein and simple carbs (e.g. dextrose) right after your workout.
While the logic of this theory sounds convincing, empirical studies have found no evidence to support the claim that simple carbs are needed right after your workout to avoid muscle breakdown. Your glycogen stores don’t have to be replenished right away and they aren’t necessary to build new muscle tissue.
The case for post workout protein is a little more complicated. Some studies show a positive effect of post workout protein on protein synthesis, while others find no such relation. Overall it seems that as long as you meet your daily calorie and nutritional requirements through your normal diet (this includes eating a full meal within 2 hours before your workout) a post workout protein shake will have little impact on your muscle gains.
Does That Mean A Post Workout Shake Is Completely Useless?
Not so fast. As you will see in a minute, there is still an argument for a post workout shake to be made. Even though research suggests that there is no such thing as a “30 minute anabolic window”, it still makes sense to take in quality protein and carbs 1.5 – 2.5 hours after your training. Unfortunately, there are days when you don’t have the time to prepare an entire meal right away.
This is where post workout shakes come into play. They are quick to prepare and easy to drink when you are on the go. Here is what I put in mine:
Carbohydrates: 40 – 50 grams of instant oats
Protein: 30 grams of whey protein
Creatine: 5 grams of normal creatine monohydrate (as I explained in my article on How To Use Creatine, it doesn’t really matter when you take creatine. I like to add it to my post workout shake simply because it’s one less thing I have to worry about throughout the day).
Other: 1 Banana (I eat it separately, but if you have a blender, feel free to add it to the shake). Some people also like to add peanut butter, which acts as a good source of unsaturated fats.
The shake can be mixed with water, milk, juice or whatever liquid you want to add. Make sure to add the liquid only if you want to drink the shake right away. Once protein powder is mixed in fluids it starts to degrade and break down, which will reduce its quality and absorption abilities.
Post Workout Shake Summary
- As long as you meet your daily calorie and nutritional requirements through your normal diet, post workout shakes are not as important as many people think.
- It can help if you don’t have the time to prepare an entire meal right away.
- Make sure to include quality protein and carbs. Creatine and unsaturated fats (through nut butters) can be also added.