Do You Need a Protein Shake After a Workout?
I get this question a lot and to be honest I don't have a one-fits-all answer for you, instead I'll say this: it depends on your goals.
If you're working out and performing resistance exercise or weight lifting of some kind with a goal to build more muscle, then a protein shake could help. While most Americans do consume adequate protein, the protein needs for individuals trying to gain muscle are greater. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy individuals engaging in resistance training consume 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 175lb male, that's about 95-135g of protein per day. For individuals who are looking to lose weight while maintaining or trying to increase muscle mass, protein needs can be even greater than that.
While I do try to recommend whole foods in most cases over supplements, protein powders (particularly whey protein isolate) do have some benefits.
Whey protein isolate is a high quality protein that is rapidly digested by the body. It has high concentrations of a branched chain amino acid called leucine which has been shown to be the key player in increasing muscle protein synthesis when muscle breakdown occurs.
Some of the benefits of whey protein isolate include:
Increased lean body mass/strength (with proper resistance training)
Increases antioxidant levels and decreased oxidative stress
Improved recovery after exercise
Does this mean I have to start drinking protein shakes? Not necessarily.
Like I said before, protein shakes can be beneficial, especially whey protein isolate due to it's high leucine content, but you should do what works best for you! If you're an otherwise healthy individual who likes protein shakes, by all means have one (with some milk, fruit or other form of carbohydrate) after your workout. If you prefer to eat a meal instead, do that. Ultimately, what matters most is what works for you as an individual.
I'll be writing another blog later about some of my favorite post-workout meals and also what to look for if you do plan on buying a protein powder to use!
What are your favorite things to eat or drink after a workout?