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Optimizing Your Post Workout Protein Shake!

Your workout was awesome. You pushed yourself to some new limits and maybe hit a few new personal bests. But your ‘to do list’ for muscle building doesn’t stop the minute you place that final dumbbell on the rack and head to the locker room for a quick shower. You’ve completed the muscle stimulation part of the day – but you’re not done yet!  Now it’s time to move on to the muscle recover section of the day. And that requires just as much planning, preparation, and implementation as the training part of your day.

Within ten minutes of your final set, it’s time to consume a shake. Many lifters hop in the shower to rinse off the sweat, then order a shake from the gym counter on their way out the door. Others will keep a shaker of whey protein in their locker, and mix up a shake themselves. Whatever your means of helping your muscles to recover quickly from a workout, you’ll want to make sure you are including three key ingredients. First, you will want a fast-digesting, low fat protein source. For most people, this one is a no-brainer… whey protein to the rescue! Next, you will need at least one cup of water to help your taxed muscle rehydrate following that tough workout. Most people mix water with their protein powder, so your bases are covered there. Finally, you’ll want to include some simple sugar. This will help to shuttle the amino acids from the protein source to your muscle fibers faster.  

For most people, a whey shake and a banana are the ultimate post-workout snack. DIY, or do it yourself, works for many lifters. If you want a bit more taste, you can enjoy a custom-made shake on the spot at most commercial gyms these days. You can usually enjoy a wide variety of options, such as fruit or peanut butter, or the banana itself, added to your shake.

One mistake that a lot of lifters make at this point is adding too much sugar and fat to their shake. Lots of gyms make very good money by adding ingredients to their shakes for customers – so they will encourage you to just add a few more tastes to your shake. Wise lifters realize the whey and maybe a banana is all they need mixed with that water and ice, for fastest digestion and optimal muscle fiber revitalization.

Another commonly made mistake by lifters in the post-workout shake phase is drinking too big of a protein shake. They’ll order a double scoop + banana + peanut butter, then toss in some Nutella and juice and a few other things. Suddenly, they’re consuming 800 to 1000 calories, and at least half of that is sugar and fats. They won’t be hungry for a “real meal” in an hour because they’ve consumed, frankly, too many calories, too soon after lifting. 

Come to think of it… there is a strong possibility that you don’t really even NEED a post-workout protein shake. Any sort of fast-digesting, low fat protein source will work for nutrient and amino acid replenishment for your thirsty muscle fibers following a tough workout. If you have a chicken wrap and an apple in a cooler waiting for you… that works too! Most lifters opt for a protein shake due to its fast and convenient nature, but either way works. As long as you’re enjoying low fat protein with a boost of carbs to shuttle it to your cells faster, you’re in good shape!

Remember that after your post-workout nutrition, there are plenty more tasks to complete if you want to develop optimum muscle. One hour after your post-workout nutrition, it’s time for another “real meal”, a full size plate of 1/3 protein from the best sources (chicken, beef, eggs, turkey), 1/3 carbohydrates (sweet potato, rice, pasta, beans), and 1/3 roughage (lettuce, fruit, vegetables). You will want to include at least one full meal before bedtime, even if you train late in the day. Your very last meal of the day should be a casein protein shake. Mix 1-2 scoops with cold water about 30 minutes before you plan to lay down. The slow-digesting nature of the casein ensures your muscles will have a steady stream of nitrogen readily available as you sleep. 

Now, the sleep portion of your day arrives, and it is just as important as the post-workout shake, as well as the workout itself. Work to set up your environment for proper sleep. Remove music and loud television which can wake you up after a few hours of sleep. You sleep in several 90-minute cycles, so you should set your alarm clock to wake you up after 7.5 hours of sleep. Give yourself about 30 minutes to fall asleep each night. Keep the room dark and cool.

And, of course, you cannot forget about having that first protein shake of the day ready and waiting when you wake up! After 8 hours of what is essentially “fasting”, your body will be primed for some fast delivery of protein to your muscle cells.  Start each day with a banana and a whey protein shake, within 5 minutes of waking up in the morning.  Plan your bigger breakfast of eggs, oatmeal, and fruit about 45-60 minutes after that. This way, you’re recovering and building muscle while you shower, shave, and get ready for your day. And, since each day brings a new workout, your body will be primed and recovered for another great workout, thanks to smart recovery and great protein shake supplementation.  Good luck!

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