You’ve just finished your workout and now need to amplify your nutrition to maximize the results you’re hoping to see. Nothing is more important at this point than getting in a good post-workout drink, so let’s talk about how to make the best choice possible so you can recover like the terminator!
Let me paint you a picture. You just smashed a workout. Let’s pretend it was arm day, my personal favorite. What you have just done is create healthy micro-tears and trauma to the muscle tissue. This is technically a catabolic activity.
All those sets of arm curls won’t translate into the maximum amount of muscle growth unless you do 2 main things. The first is initiate muscle protein synthesis and the second is spike your insulin. Insulin is the most anabolic hormone in the human body and will help initiate muscle growth and repair in tandem with muscle protein synthesis.
Solution? The easiest way to kill 2 birds with 1 stone is the perfect post workout drink of course.
Your post-workout drink of choice is going to provide the first line of defense for repairing the muscle damage that just took place and helping you grow stronger as a result of it.
Research has confirmed that taking in both protein and carbohydrate supplementation after your workout session can lead to higher rates of muscle protein synthesis as well as enhanced muscle glycogen replenishment. Carbs are the main component that signals an insulin spike, which most people assume is bad but post workout its actually very important to create the anabolic effect in your body – aka an insulin spike!
In short, it’s worth your while to pay attention to this. Note that while you can always simply choose to have a whole food meal, a post-workout drink tends to be superior because the body can digest the nutrients faster.
Whey Isolate Protein Powder
The first thing you’ll want to get into the picture is a quality whey protein isolate powder. This is the highest quality of whey that you can get in post-workout because it digests the most rapidly and will get into the muscle cells where it’s needed. 1Biolo, Gianni, et al. “An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism 273.1 (1997): E122-E129.Morifuji, Masashi, et al. “Post-exercise carbohydrate plus whey protein hydrolysates supplementation increases skeletal muscle glycogen level in rats.” Amino acids 38.4 (2010): 1109-1115.
You want to choose a whey protein isolate that maximizes what I consider are the 4 pillars to the perfect post workout protein: max protein synthesis, max protein digestion, max protein absorption, and max protein purity.
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If you want to learn more about what goes into picking the best protein powder in the overcrowded market make sure to tap below.
CLICK HERE: The best protein powders for post workout
Whey isolate powder typically has the lowest overall concentration as well of both fat and carbohydrates, therefore you don’t have to worry about these potentially slowing you down. While carbohydrates are fine – even ideal – in the post-workout period, dietary fat should be kept to a minimum. It hampers quick digestion and will prevent you from making a full recovery.
This is why I avoid “healthy foods” like nut butters, avocado, and even coconut oil in the post workout window. When it comes to the best post workout drink speed is most important.
How much protein you take in during your post-workout drink will vary based on your overall goals, daily calorie intake, and your current dieting status. If you are seeking fat loss right now and are thus using a reduced-calorie diet plan, expect to need more protein than if you were focusing on muscle building.
This may seem backward and counterintuitive to many people but the reason for this is that when in a calorie deficit, there is a much higher risk of using protein as an energy source, which means less protein is left over to maintain and/or rebuild muscle tissue.
By supplying more protein than you need, if you do happen to use some as an energy source, you still have enough protein left over to maintain your prevent muscle loss. Intakes for the protein content of your post-workout drink should range from around 20 grams up to 50 grams for those who need more. The main thing is you need enough protein and you need it to be fast digesting to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Take a look at how much MPS can vary depending on type of protein.
For the highest quality isolate on the market, check out G.O.A.T.EIN, which contains key ingredients that will stop the gassiness that you typically experience with your usual whey protein isolate while also helping to boost nutrient absorption and accelerate the rate of protein synthesis taking place. It’s simply the fastest way to see gains.
Along with protein, carbohydrates are the next must you should have in your post-workout drink. Now is not the time to be scared of carbs because even if you are trying to get leaner, they’re unlikely to get converted into body fat at this time.The carbohydrates you eat immediately following intense training sessions will be put towards replenishing lost muscle glycogen and helping with muscle repair and rebuilding tissue. 2Outlaw, Jordan J., et al. “Effects of a pre-and post-workout protein-carbohydrate supplement in trained crossfit individuals.” Springerplus 3.1 (2014): 369.
Research3Shimomura, Yoshiharu, et al. “Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise.” The Journal of nutrition 134.6 (2004): 1583S-1587S. has confirmed that your insulin sensitivity levels are higher following exercise, which is exactly what you want when eating carbs and hoping to stay lean.
The type of carbohydrate you choose to take in at this point can vary considerably. Some people prefer not even to drink their carbs but to eat them instead. This is fine as long as you’re selecting a carbohydrate that is going to digest rapidly so it gets into the bloodstream as soon as possible.
Whole protein-rich foods almost always digest slowly whereas carbohydrates can digest much faster if they are the right variety.
Choose carbohydrates that are simpler in nature and do your best to stay away from high fiber foods. This probably seems like opposite advise you’d normally get about your carb choices but this is the one time of day where everything is different.
You’ll also want to keep your overall fat intake to a minimum as well as fat will just slow down the digestion process, making it harder to reap the benefits the post-workout drink is aiming to provide.
Some common choices for post-workout carbs4Wojtaszewski, J. F., et al. “Insulin signaling and insulin sensitivity after exercise in human skeletal muscle.” Diabetes 49.3 (2000): 325-331. might include:
- Bananas (which are actually great because they contain a combination of both sugar and starch, which is ideal at this time)
- White rice
- White toast with some jam/honey
- Low fat ice cream (which may or may not be blended with the protein powder)
- Low-fat rice cakes/chips
Some people will also serve themselves the foods they are craving during this time. Your diet should ideally be about 80-90% whole single ingredient foods, which leaves you a little room to play around and add some fun foods in there.
With that though, you’ll see the best results if you can add those fun foods right after the workout period. This is when they are least likely to be detrimental to your overall results. This said, do keep in mind that you still want to keep these choices lower in fat when possible.
The goal with carbohydrates during this time is to take the body from a catabolic state where cortisol is ruling the picture to an anabolic one where insulin is. Spiking insulin – the thing you want to avoid during the rest of the day – is actually your goal. As insulin is highly anabolic (tissue building), having it present thanks to the fast-acting carbohydrates will serve you well.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Another element you might want to include in your post-workout mix to boost recovery is Branched Chain Amino acids. While most amino acids move to the liver for processing and then are distributed to the muscle tissues where needed, BCAA’s move straight into the muscle tissues and begin to go to work immediately.
BCAA’s can be especially helpful for preventing the loss of lean muscle mass tissue5Newsholme, Philip. “Why is L-glutamine metabolism important to cells of the immune system in health, postinjury, surgery or infection?.” The Journal of nutrition 131.9 (2001): 2515S-2522S., particularly when in a calorie deficit, so this is really when you’ll want to focus on including them in.
They’re also going to help improve energy levels also, especially when you’re in a state of being in a calorie deficit, so that’s also something to consider. GAIN-O-RADE by Alpha Lion will provide a potent dose of the key amino acids you need along with coconut water to replenish lost electrolytes.
You can drink GAIN-O-RADE intra workout when you are in a caloric deficit to prevent muscle breakdown, or simply sip on it in your post workout window to initiate even faster muscle recovery and anabolism.
Glutamine is a particular type of amino acid that’s often used to help promote maximum post workout recovery and is very helpful for anyone who’s interested in preventing lean muscle loss.
Glutamine can help to strengthen your immune system6Prasad, Ananda S., et al. “Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.” Nutrition 12.5 (1996): 344-348. and since your immune system takes a hit with each and every workout you do, this will go a long way towards ensuring you can bounce back for more each workout.
ZMA, which stands for zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 is another common combination taking post-workout to ensure maximum recovery. Zinc has been proven to help boost testosterone levels, therefore will assist with the muscle rebuilding process.
When paired together with magnesium, it’s also great for helping to promote deeper sleep as well. Users who take it regularly will report waking up feeling more refreshed.
The better you sleep, the better you recover so this is really a no-brainer.
Using a product such as Alpha Dreams that provides the ZMA combination in the precise formula you need along with glutamine is a fast way to get everything into your post-workout period without worry. You can either mix it in with your shake or just take it along the side.
There you have the key elements that should be in place when you’re looking to quicken your recovery so you can hit the gym and train hard again. As far as results are concerned, nutrition can really be half the battle for seeing results, so it’s not something you want to be leaving on the table.
To leave off, here are a few of the top choices for post-workout drinks and how they rank.
- Milk: A good source of protein, but lacking a bit in carbohydrates. 5/10
- Chocolate Milk: Better than regular milk since there is added sugar. The protein content is moderate, so this is okay but not ideal. 7/10
- Gatorade (Or another sports drink): Many contain sugar and electrolytes, so that can be beneficial but are sorely lacking in protein. 2/10
- Whey Isolate Mixed With A Banana: A good mix of high-quality protein and carbs. The ideal option. 10/10
- Coconut Water: A great choice for restoring some electrolytes and a few carbs, but too low in calories and protein on its own. Consider mixing it with protein powder instead. 3/10
So there you have it – the best way to create your perfect post-workout drink. Check out more nutrition tips for your pre and post-workout diet!
A FEW IMPORTANT TAKEAWAYS
- Always choose a fast digesting protein like a WPI (whey protein isolate)
- Speed is king post workout. Mix your whey protein isolate with fast digesting and low fiber carbs like banana, rice, sports drinks, or even my personal favorite – fat free frozen yoghurt
- Stay away from high fiber and high fat foods in the post workout window.
- Consume more protein when you are dieting so you have enough to initiate muscle protein synthesis
- G.O.A.T.EIN was created to be the perfect post workout protein
I’m Troy and I’m the creator of SuperHuman You and Co-Founder of Alpha Lion.
I created SuperHuman You to give you access to the most cutting edge information so you can reach your body goals as fast as humanly possible.
I’ve been obsessed with training since 2005 when I attended IMG Academy and got to train alongside NBA, NFL and Olympic Gold Medal winning athletes.
Now I’m on a mission to transform as many lives as possible and I’m so excited you found us!
I’ve been fortunate enough to train alongside and pick the brain of some of the best pro athletes, bodybuilders and trainers in the world – and this site represents over 15+ years of insights from the world’s best.
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Biolo, Gianni, et al. “An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism 273.1 (1997): E122-E129.Morifuji, Masashi, et al. “Post-exercise carbohydrate plus whey protein hydrolysates supplementation increases skeletal muscle glycogen level in rats.” Amino acids 38.4 (2010): 1109-1115.|
|2.||↑||Outlaw, Jordan J., et al. “Effects of a pre-and post-workout protein-carbohydrate supplement in trained crossfit individuals.” Springerplus 3.1 (2014): 369.|
|3.||↑||Shimomura, Yoshiharu, et al. “Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise.” The Journal of nutrition 134.6 (2004): 1583S-1587S.|
|4.||↑||Wojtaszewski, J. F., et al. “Insulin signaling and insulin sensitivity after exercise in human skeletal muscle.” Diabetes 49.3 (2000): 325-331.|
|5.||↑||Newsholme, Philip. “Why is L-glutamine metabolism important to cells of the immune system in health, postinjury, surgery or infection?.” The Journal of nutrition 131.9 (2001): 2515S-2522S.|
|6.||↑||Prasad, Ananda S., et al. “Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.” Nutrition 12.5 (1996): 344-348.|