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Post-Workout Nutrition: Should I Have a Shake?

It is well established that nutrition is the foundation for any healthy lifestyle and fitness regimen. With that in mind, our members look to improve their nutrition to reach their personal goals, enhance their workouts, and generally feel better.

We encourage people to make small incremental changes to their nutrition to create true lasting changes that go beyond a quick fix. One of those changes could be including a post-workout shake when they exercise with intensity. 'Intense' workouts include weight lifting, interval training, or endurance training that lasts longer than 45 minutes.

During intense training, we break down muscle at the micro-level and we use fuel. This is what ultimately makes us stronger, builds muscle, and makes us leaner but in the short term, it requires repair (protein synthesis). Immediately after an intense workout, the rate of breakdown of muscle greatly increases while protein synthesis (repair) falls behind.

Post-workout nutrition is guided toward meeting the body's requirements for minimizing damage from the workout, maximizing recovery, and increasing muscle quality/size by initiating synthesis. By doing that, you can decrease muscle soreness, improved ability to build muscle, improve immune function, improve bone mass, and increase fat loss.

How does it work?

It's all about availability and the 'window of opportunity'. Our body needs to have the raw materials available in order to rebuild and recover. Availability strongly influences the delivery and transport of amino acids and glucose to the areas they are needed. Simply having the materials available can signal our body to rebuild.

We improve availability in two ways:

1. Increased blood flow to muscles during and immediately after exercise means that available nutrients are floating around more quickly.

2. Providing an amino acid and glucose rich blood supply means that the protein synthesis goes up.

The 'window of opportunity' refers to the time immediately after working out that your muscles are primed to accept these nutrients that stimulate repair, growth, and strength. This window opens immediately after you are done working out and closes quickly (about 30 minutes).

If you feed your body properly while this window is open, you’ll get the benefits.

If you don’t provide adequate post-exercise nutrition fast enough — even if you delay by only a couple of hours — you decrease muscle glycogen storage and protein synthesis.

As soon as you stop working out, you should be consuming some postworkout nutrition.

So, what should your nutrition include:

- Protein to aid in protein synthesis.

Whey protein is the gold standard for post-workout recovery because it is the most rapidly bioavailable complete protein source.

- Carbohydrates to help replace muscle glycogen and enhance the role of insulin in driving nutrients into the cells.

How much?

For most people, data suggests that ingesting about 20 grams of protein after an intense workout maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis.

For most workouts, consuming about 20-30 grams of carbohydrates per hour of workout time is optimal.

Putting it together:

- Use about one scoop of whey protein (we like Driven Nutrition Whey) along with a carbohydrate source (sports drink, coconut water).

- You can also use pre-made post-workout formulas like Driven PostWod (1:1 protein to carb ratio with BCAAs and Creatine).