Q. What is your favorite type of protein powder? What is the best type of smoothie for after a workout? -- Heather S.
A. Thanks for asking, Heather! I'd like to start with an answer to your second question regarding the best type of smoothie after a workout, because I don't think most exercisers realize the impact of a post-recovery shake. Recent studies have shown that consuming a shake made up of a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes of a workout will offset muscle damage and facilitate greater training adaptations. The value of this snack should not be underestimated, and it rivals breakfast as the most important meal of the day.
In fact, I've worked with clients who, simply by regularly incorporating a recovery shake into their postworkout ritual, accelerated their fitness results. Eating immediately after working out may seem counterintuitive, but timing is everything.
The ideal recovery shake consists of around 20 grams of protein--whey, ideally, because it contains the amino acids your body needs to build and repair muscle--mixed with whole fruit or some other carbohydrate (60-80 grams). Some fitness experts even suggest consuming your shake during and postworkout. The sooner the better. (Click here for one of my post workout recovery shake recipes.)
Why a shake at all? Because you want to get nutrients to those muscles as quickly as possible, and liquids metabolize faster than solids. If a shake isn't available, have milk, eggs, yogurt or something similar that delivers protein to muscles fast.
"You must replace what you've depleted," says Rachel Cosgrove, fitness expert, author and co-owner of one of the nation's top rated gyms. "Do not dillydally; instead, have your shake ready to go for immediate replenishment. You won't get everything out of your workout if you skip this step."
Furthermore, don't skimp on the protein: "The simple act of eating more protein increases the amount of protein in your muscles. Why? Because that's pretty much the only place your body can store it," says Lou Shuler, fitness journalist, author and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. "Your body breaks down and builds up muscle tissue at an accelerated rate when you work out with weights. In fact, if you don't supply your muscles with fresh protein after you lift, you'll end up with a net loss of muscle protein in the hours immediately following your workout."
Now, on to the first question about protein powder. My favorite powder for the last few years has been PFC's Performance Bio-Whey. It uses simple, high quality ingredients (the vanilla, for instance, only contains 100% cold filtered whey protein isolate, ultra-filtered whey, fructose, natural gum, natural flavoring, digestive enzyme blend and stevia.). One level scoop is 110 calories and 20 grams of protein. It blends really well, can easily be added to baked goods for extra fortification, and tastes awesome. It used to only be available in health clubs, but is now available online in a variety of flavors. I stick with Creamy Vanilla and Rich Chocolate.
Another option that you may find more convenient (albeit more expensive), is to buy pre-made protein shakes from your grocer. Because I often teach fitness classes back-to-back and need ready-made replenishment, I sometimes drink the Protein Plus shakes by Bolthouse Farms. They include 210 calories and 16 grams of protein per serving (I sometimes have two servings at once), plus 21 vitamins and minerals. I admit that the sugar content is higher than I'd like, but remember that sugar is best consumed postworkout. Beyond that, I like that this brand uses no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, and no genetically modified ingredients. A money-saving trick with these is to buy several when they're on sale, then freeze them since they're perishable. Put one in the fridge the day before to let it thaw.
Ok, now's the time to start planning for your next workout. Do you need to acquire some protein powder or other forms of high quality protein to have on hand? Preparation is key! As Cosgrove said, you won't maximize your efforts if you skip this step!!
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.