Do You Really Need that Post-Workout Shake?

by Fitbie
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Do You Really Need that Post-Workout Shake?

“Eat a protein-rich snack or meal within 30 minutes after exercising in order to aid post-workout recovery.” It’s one of those fitness 101 tips every nutritionist and their trainer swears by, but it turns out there’s actually been little to no factual evidence to back it up.

In a new research review published in the journal Sports Medicine, scientists looked at 27 articles assessing the benefits of post-exercise protein intake, and discovered that there isn’t really a connection between decreased muscle soreness or recovery when protein supplements are used before, during, or after a single workout. They do, however, appear to show recovery benefits when used daily in the context of an intense training routine.

Essentially, the researchers discovered that downing a protein-packed shake after a barre workout won’t necessarily prevent your leg muscles from feeling like jello, however, if you’re highly-active and putting in a major sweat sesh (or two) every day, then consistent daily protein intake after your workouts may help. But regardless of its recovery benefits, adequate protein intake is still essential if you want to stay lean and healthy.

Confused? So were we, so we reached to registered dietitian Lauren Lindsley to help explain proteins role in a healthy diet.

“Protein is the building block for muscle, cartilage, skin, blood,” says Lindsley. “So we still need protein to rebuild that muscle we tore down when we exercised.” And if that’s not enough reason to pack your plate with protein, a study published in Nutrition Metabolism showed that dieters who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of their diet ate nearly 450 fewer calories per day and lost about 11 pounds over a 12-week period, without making any other changes to their eating routine. The reason: Protein keeps you fuller longer, and also helps your body maintain lean, metabolism-boosting muscle.

So how much protein should you eat? The CDC suggests women ages 18 – 70+ take in 46 grams of protein each day (56 grams for men in the same age range), but most fitness experts advise consuming much more: between 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of your body weight—so that’s 75-150 grams per day for a 150-pound woman. The general advice is that the more active you are, the more protein you need.

Having trouble racking up enough protein grams? Remember, protein doesn’t necessarily mean meat. Chicken, fish, lean beef, eggs, and Greek yogurt are all excellent sources, but the plant world also offers plenty of protein-rich options. “Often times plant sources of protein are lower in saturated fat and calories, which are nutrients many people are concerned about,” says Lindsley. Nutritious meat-free options: Nuts and seeds, nut butters, beans and peas, and gluten-free grains like quinoa and amaranth all provide protein along with a lot of other essential nutrients.

Are you tracking your macros in MyFitnessPal? How much protein do you aim for daily? Share in the comments!




  • Boogaloo

    I believe it should be 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, not total body weight. So you have to calculate body fat percentage and subtract the weight of the fat when doing the calculation.

    • RNinMaine

      I’d always known it to be 0.8-1g protein per kg of body wt per day. Divide wt in lbs by 2.2 to get kg. So a 150 lb person would need 54-68 g per day. 150 g per day would be too much, in many experts’ opinions, and can put stress on the kidneys.

      • RobRex2010

        That is correct. Also you could use 0.5 g and 1.0 g for the total body weight you are trying to achieve and that should account for lean body weight calculation which can only be correctly calculated by immersion and closely calculated with proper calipers.

  • jello_bob

    I aim for 27% protein daily. Usually end up closer to 21% on average with 30% fat and rest in Carbs.

  • rhisf

    I wish there was not such a wide gap in what everyone says about protein. I’m trying to lose weight and want to to be 175lbs. Lifetime fitness has me on 140g protein 183g carbs and 62g fat. As a vegetarian it is next to impossible to get that much protein down.

    • Brad Gibbs

      I’m a 5’8″ guy. I was 200 lbs this time last year. I set my goals at 40% protein, 40% fat, and 20% carbs. That puts me at about 160g of protein, 84g of fat, and 110g of carbs daily. I am now 159 lbs. I do moderate exercise. I’m convinced processed carbs are the reason people are overweight. Read the book entitled “why we are fat and what to do about it”. I believe the author is Gary Taubes.

      • RNinMaine

        I agree. I was turned on to Paleo/Primal lifestyles (Rob Wolff and mark Sisson) several yrs ago and really understand and promote the science behind it. I changed my eating habits which limited carbs to under 100g/day and lost 25lbs in 6 mo without exercising. Slept better, skin was amazing, had lots of energy, and those pesky aches and pains you acquire as you approach middle age virtually disappeared.

        • Brad Gibbs

          Exactly, not only have I lost 41 lbs, my skin is much, much better and I have lots more energy. Carbs at lunch were causing me to crash in the afternoon and limited my productivity at work. I feel like I have discovered THE secret to not only weight loss but also to keeping the weight off long-term. My overall health has drastically improved.

      • GK85

        Protein and fat are your main sources, then comes carbs. I figured out i was eating WAAAY to much carbs, even tough i was eating only 2300 a day on calorie intake (and yes i weigh everything). I was losing weight, but not much on fat. Now i’ve lowered my carb intake from 50% to 30-35% and the fat is melting much faster. Also lifting does a lot of good for you when you wanna lose fat and build muscles. I have no research or anything like that to back it up. Just saying from personal experience after a lot of trial and error this last year.

  • RobRex2010

    One of the major problems ( besides the monetization of fitness) with the wealth of Fitness ‘information’ is the “more is better” myth. The human body can only utilize 10 to 12 grams of protein in a one hour period. Think about that next time you plunk down $40 for a “mid’ grade protein powder that recommends a shake containing 30 to 50 grams of whey protein before and after your workout. Assuming your workout is about an hour in duration, there are only two other places for those extra 20 to 40 grams of protein to go… stored fat or toilet trash…

    • Jake Krueger

      You couldn’t be more wrong

      • Angela

        Seriously lol. That comment made no sense.

    • RobRex2010

      Actually, whey protein has the highest absorption rate of any type ( and we are talking the highest quality ingredients which contain the proper EAAs in the correct ratio for humans) and that absorption rate is 8-10 g/hour. The next would be casein protein 6.1 g/hour. Please see…”Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial accretion.Proc.Natl. Acad. Sci.94:14930-14935,1997. There are approximately 23 other studies available which discuss protein digestion, absorption,utilization and gluconeogenesis( the process by which Amino Acid loss is converted to sugars)and either replicate these same results or support these results. By the way, Sarah, of the eight protein sources investigated in this study two different formulation of pea flour scored the 3rd and 4th lowest absorption rates in this study.

    • FlipSide

      This is why I got away from a shake of 50 grams and started making pops of about 7 grams each. I eat plus or minus a dozen or so pops during the day which distributes the protein through the day. Much better!

  • Angela

    I don’t take it for those reasons. I just take it because it’s a good source of protein, which is necessary for muscle growth, and it replenishes me after workout.

  • nickls

    Adding to where to find protein as a non-meat eater isn’t as tough as it sounds. If you try to get 20-30g of protein 4 to 5 times a day, then you’re in that 80g-150g range. P.S. fat and cholesterol not so bad it turns out (quality matters)

  • CF

    Any tips for how much protein a pregnant woman who crossfits 3-5 times a week should eat? I weigh 150 and aimed for 100 before pregnancy. Should I increase? I’m not looking for gains right now, I just want to maintain my current level of fitness for as long as possible.

    I had to cut out my shake because of artificial sweeteners. I’ve heard that plain whey is ok, but I haven’t really investigated.

    Any tips will be appreciated!

  • mrman65

    I go off my goal weight, it works well.

  • GK85

    I am 193 cm, 85 kg around 20-22% BF and i aim for a 150 gram of protein intake daily. I workout 3-4 times a week. Doing heavy lifting, circuit training with BW and cardio on rowing machines and Stationary bike. I try to get my protein from normal food as much as possible. Using protein shake whenever i fail to reach this. I pre-log most of my foods for the day, so especially on workout day’s i know wether to take a shake with me or not to reach my macro goals

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  • Nikki

    After a workout you should take in a 4:1 (Carb to Protein) Ratio…like a glass of chocolate milk and half a banana… or in my case, the TeamBeachBody Results & Recovery Formula

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  • FlipSide

    I am a 67-year old female, post-gastric bypass (2006). I live in central Florida, and weigh about 195 pounds. I walk 6-8 miles (2 to 2.5 hours) a day, 5 days a week, in the early mornings, and love it.
    When I get home, I grab 4 home-made popsicles made from Iso-Pure whey protein shake mix and fruit. Each pop provides about 7 grams of protein.
    Recovery is lightning-quick because the pops are COLD, as well as loaded with not only protein, but lots of other goodies.
    A quick shower and I am ready for the rest of my day!!