The aim of taking a protein shake immediately after heavy exercise is to deliver amino acids (the body’s building blocks) to maximise or maintain muscle mass, keep your metabolism high, boost your immune system and maximise your recovery.
The best and most effective time to take it is immediately (within 15 minutes) after heavy training sessions such as weight training, power or high intensity interval efforts.
Making the perfect protein shake
Take one 30g scoop in 300-400ml of water or skimmed milk (it has a higher calcium level) or a 50/50 mix of the two. Shake the bottle really well (or use a blender) for a few minutes as it should be of a creamy consistency.
It is also vital you eat a carbohydrate foodstuff along with it the protein shake because protein taken on its own will not synthesise into the muscles as quickly.
By adding a carbohydrate source such as half a banana, you will help provide the energy required for the optimum absorption process to take place. If you have time, you could even blend the banana into the shake.
The 60:40 carbohydrate/protein shake is based on a 60%:40% ratio of these two macronutrients. A great example of a protein shake after a 45-60 minute swim would be a 350-400ml shake with a scoop of between 30-40 grams of whey protein mixed with 50% low fat milk and 50% water.
This would provide the 40% of protein in the ratio. The 60% carbohydrate should be a higher sugar energy source such as a banana or a few Jaffa Cakes that should be taken in the 15 minutes after your swim.
The energy from the carbohydrates speeds up the absorption rate of the protein into your muscles, boosting your immune system function and speeding up muscle recovery and growth. This in turn raises your body’s metabolic rate and burns more body fat.
With regards to finding the right whey protein powder, feel free to go for any as long as it is pure and doesn’t have anything added.
Additives such as creatine and glutamine are not absorbed fully, but are used as a gimmick by manufacturers.
You will also see brands that sell whey protein with names such as ‘isolate’ or ‘hydrolysate’. Again, these terms only relate to what has been added to increase the absorption rate.
Aim for one that is 90% protein or more. They usually come with a 30 gram scoop and just one of these mixed in 300ml of milk/water will be ideal for your post workout shake.
Other times you can take the shake
Protein shakes can also be used as a snack mid-morning or in the afternoon between meals. Your body will lose protein at very low intensities so it is important to include dietary protein at most meals but never rely on them as a complete meal replacement.
You can lose protein even when you sleep because you will be fasting for seven hours or more and your body breaks down muscle to use as a fuel when you sleep. This drops your body’s metabolism, you lose muscle and your immune system falls so it’s vital to refuel as soon as possible. Some athletes even use a night time shake to make all the difference in overcoming muscle loss.