post workout shake


“Do you even shake?”

From ancient Greece to Arnold and Rocky Balboa, men have been trying to find ways to enhance their muscle growth, strength and recovery. One popular method has been a post-workout liquid shake. Before the days of widespread, affordable powdered supplements, bodybuilders and strength athletes alike used raw eggs and milk to pack on the pounds and to get those precious calories into the body as fast as possible, post-exercise. The bodybuilder Irvin P. Johnson began to popularise and market egg-based protein powders marketed specifically at bodybuilders and physical athletes in the 1950s, but the supplement industry did not really take off until the late 70’s. 

I am sure you have asked yourself the question ‘do I really need to consume a post-workout shake?’ The answer, as always, in the health and fitness world is ‘maybe’. 

Lets first discuss what is loosely termed the “anabolic window”. After exercise your muscles are more insulin sensitive due to the muscle contractions and fuel depletion during your workout. FYI – Insulin is an anabolic hormone that transports nutrients to various cells, including muscle cells. So due to this beneficial physiological environment it’s an ideal time to get in the raw materials to facilitate progress and recovery. However, due the affect stress hormones (which are elevated during exercise) which impact our digestion system and appetite, it’s not wise to eat a solid meal straight after exercise. In fact, after intense training you may actually feel quite sick at the thought of eating food. That’s where protein shakes come in. It’s a far more convenient way of getting those calories in and taking advantage of the aforementioned. Ideally, you want to consume your post-workout shake anywhere between 30-60 minutes post-workout. 

Does this mean you won’t make any progress if you do not consume a post-workout shake? No! Overall daily calories and macronutrient ratios are the most important factors. In fact, unless you are not able to eat a meal within 2 hours of finishing your workout it’s not essential at all. However, if you are a serious gym goer, recreational or elite level athlete then I highly recommend including a post-workout.   

Lets look at some of the other benefits of consuming a post-workout shake. 

• From a performance perspective: You want to replenish glycogen (stored glucose in the muscle) as fat as possible to enhance recovery and increase performance next time around. A post-workout shake containing a specific ratio of protein and carbohydrates will be your best bet.

• From a muscle growth perspective: This is a great time to get in much needed calories, protein and carbohydrates and take full advantage of the increased insulin sensitivity. The goals after training for muscle growth will be to drive as many nutrients into the trained muscles as possible.

• Pre-Diabetic/insulin resistant: If your body is not efficient at metabolising carbohydrates, then consuming the majority of your daily intake of carbohydrates around your workout would be a wise choice. Again, you are just simply taking advantage of the improved insulin sensitivity. This means a higher percentage of the carbohydrates you do consume will be stored in muscle cells as opposed to fat cells. 

• It’s an easy way to get the calories in: Ask any serious gym goer and they will tell you eating to build muscle is not easy. On average a post-workout shake will easily have between 300-600 calories. That’s 600 calories from solid food less you have to eat. In fact, for my leaner clients, I have pre-scribed a 100+ grams of carbohydrates in their post-workout shakes.  

• One for personal trainers: When starting with a beginner client one of these easiest meals you can control is your clients post-workout shake. Typically, you will be with them when they consume it. You can get creative and use this meal as away to get in much important nutrients for the overall health of your client such as, essential amino acids, omgea 3’s and antioxidants. 


Liam Horne – Personal Trainer




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