At one point during your workout, you might have received advice about taking a protein shake. The logic here is quite simple. When you work out, your body receives very small tears in the muscle tissue caused by the intense contraction. Afterward, your body starts to repair itself. Recovery is important. The most important thing is not how hard you go, but being able to come back. It’s important to take in enough protein and carbohydrates after every workout. Protein helps your body recover, builds your muscles and even boosts your metabolism to help you slim down; and a post workout protein shake can make a big difference in your fitness journey. First, you should educate yourself a little on how protein works.

Some proteins take longer to absorb than others. There are “slow burning” proteins, which you can have at dinner so your body doesn’t run out of protein for muscle repair in your sleep. There are also proteins that are absorbed more easily than others and are best for post-workout consumption. These may come in the form of protein powder.

Types of Protein

Animal-Based Proteins

Whey Protein

This is the most commonly used protein in powders. It is the most quickly absorbed and highly recommended for post workout consumption.

Casein Protein

This protein is best for consuming before bed because it is the richest in glutamine, an amino acid that aids in recovery. It is also a slow burning protein, making it more ideal for a pre-slumber drink.

Egg Protein

This is a great non-dairy, lactose-free alternative which is absorbed at a medium rate. It offers high levels of the amino acid lysine.

Vegetarian Options

vegetarian protein powder
PranaOn Power Plant Protein

Soy protein: this is a plant-based protein ideal for vegetarians and vegans. Soy has always been a top protein source with all the essential amino acids.

Pea protein: if you are a vegan or vegetarian, or you simply want to cut down on animal foods, this is also a good alternative. It’s similar in quality to eggs and soy, which are considered complete sources of protein — meaning they contain all the essential amino acids. It is high in arginine in particular, an amino acid your body needs to build muscle.

Hemp protein: this is another alternative to those leaning toward plant-based proteins. It also contains all eight of the essential amino acids. It’s packed with live enzymes, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other cofactors to aid absorption, digestion and general wellness.

Benefits of Protein Powder

If you are going to take a whey, casein or milk-based powder, you are basically taking in the best part of milk. The carbohydrates and fats are just removed so you won’t have a disproportionate intake of these nutrients. With this boost in protein, you can also get a boost in your athletic performance, improve muscle tone and better your health overall.

But Why Post Workout?

Your body needs to recover from all the stress that it experienced during your workout. It also needs enough protein to build muscle. Furthermore, you need to restore depleted glycogen (the form in which energy is stored in your muscles) levels.

Most people talk about an anabolic window, or a period of time in which protein synthesis (muscle building) is at its peak. Many argue that this is only 30 minutes after your workout, and you should consume protein within that 30 minutes or else.

According to Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld, two leading experts in the world of bodybuilding nutrition, this anabolic window is more like four to six hours, not 30 minutes. This is coming from a meta-analysis they did using all existing research on post-workout nutrient timing and benefits. This means that while it isn’t bad to consume protein right after a workout, it isn’t necessary to do it immediately. However, if you decide to work out in a fasted state, it becomes more important to take a post workout protein shake as soon as possible.

A post workout protein shake can help you recover and build muscle, but you should not rely on it entirely. It’s important to get all the necessary nutrients throughout your day in a well-balanced diet with whole foods. Go on, now — get that helpful protein boost!