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Post-Workout Protein Shake Myths

  • 5 min read

by Matt Weik

Everyone loves protein shakes—well, at least if you’re into post-workout nutrition. They are simple enough to make, can be completely made-to-order, and are delicious. Most people can’t wait to finish their workout to slam down their tasty treat. Whether you make the shake at home or have the gym/juice bar make it for you, know that there are ways to make your shake unhealthy even when the bro-scientists are telling you it’s ok. This article will break down some common post-workout shake myths so you aren’t taking steps backwards when it comes to your health and fitness goals.

1. Throwing in the kitchen sink to make it taste good

Many people are under the impression that post-workout is a time where everything you consume will be utilized by the muscles and it will be all good. This isn’t the case. Some people use milk, oats, peanut butter, a banana, protein powder, and more in just one shake. Sure, in small quantities you might be able to get away with this. But, remember that calories still count—even post-workout. If you’re drinking a shake after your workout that has 1,000 or more calories because of everything you added, you could very well have half of your daily caloric intake just with your protein shake—that’s not even counting your other meals throughout the day.

Plan your protein shake like you do your meals. Know what you need in them and what you don’t so you aren’t sending your calories for the day through the roof. I’ve seen so many people eat healthy, workout, and actually be gaining weight (fat) because of how many extra calories they are taking in through their post-workout shake because they aren’t taking those numbers into account.

2. Tossing high-sugar ingredients into the shake

We have all heard over the years that simple carbohydrates and sugars are perfect post-workout because they can be delivered directly to the muscles to aid in recovery and replenishment. The fast-digesting carbohydrates spike insulin and help shuttle nutrients into the muscle where it can be utilized. While it’s true that your muscles are like a sponge after a workout and pretty much absorb everything, that doesn’t mean you should be feeding it sugar just because you can. Calories from sugar can add up quickly if you aren’t paying attention. And some smoothies can have astronomical sugar contents in them since they add real fruit, fruit juice, and sometimes even things like chocolate syrup.

My philosophy is, if you wouldn’t consume it during the day, it’s not a good excuse to have it post-workout. This also ties in with our first myth where those extra calories will add up and can ruin your caloric intake for the day if not accounted for. Sugar also isn’t going to leave you feeling full after your shake. In fact, when we consume sugar, it activates signals in the brain, since the brain loves sugar, and you’ll end up craving more sugar shortly after you finish your shake. This is a disaster waiting to happen if you don’t have any self-control.

3. It’s necessary to have a protein shake post-workout

While the body can absorb a liquid much faster than a whole food item that would need to get broken down first, you don’t NEED a protein shake post-workout. You can just as easily sit down and have a regular whole food meal if you wish. And if you ate prior to your workout, those nutrients are still getting absorbed and shuttled throughout the body anyway so there really isn’t a need to take in something immediately following a workout. You should, however, make sure you drink plenty of water following your workout to ensure you replace what you sweat out in the gym.

Unless you consume a protein shake with many ingredients, more than likely you aren’t going to feel full after you down your shake. If this describes how you feel after consuming a shake, consider changing to a post-workout meal. It will fill you up and help you feel satiated longer. If you choose a lean protein source and healthy vegetables or other healthy carbohydrate sources, you’ll be more than good to go.

4. Just because a juice bar is making it doesn’t mean they are healthy

A juice bar is in business to make money. And know what? Most of them only care about you enjoying your drink and coming back for more—regardless if the macros for the shakes are the devil’s potion. All the fruity sounding drinks and peanut butter filled shakes sure taste good, but they are loaded with ingredients that your body doesn’t need. Don’t let your taste buds rule what you put in your body.

We all know the things that generally taste amazing, are more than likely filled with sugars or fats. Also, the protein used by many smoothie and juice bars are not of the highest quality. They want to use a protein powder that keeps their costs down so they don’t have to charge an arm and a leg per shake/smoothie. You’d be better off just going home and making yourself a shake with the higher quality whey that you already have.