You just finished an intense workout, your muscles are blazing and you need to recover with some protein and carbs. But don’t reach for a protein bar or sit down to full meal just yet. Your post-workout recovery nutrition should be a liquid.
Why? Because nutrients in liquid form reach the muscles significantly faster than they do in solid food. Liquids are also easier to “stomach” than solid food.
To rebuild your muscles and fuel your body after a workout with the proper balance of carbohydrate and protein, you need to be sipping, not chewing. But the drink you choose makes a big difference. Here are a few options:
Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
This little wonder drink has been all over the news and is currently part of the got milk? campaign. But is it really that great? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Not only does it provide high-quality protein, it also contains the proper amount of carbohydrate, plus a dose of cocoa, which has been shown to decrease inflammation. Sixteen ounces is all you need post-workout. Don’t want to hassle with a thermos to keep it cold? Hershey’s now makes a shelf-stable version of chocolate milk, sold in individual packages. Not a fan of cow’s milk? Achieve the same end with low-fat chocolate soymilk. (Check out Conquering Two-a-Days with Milk REFUEL.)
Want to stick with real food? Make your own recovery shakes. Combine 1/2 cup of plain low-fat regular, soy or Greek yogurt with 1 cup of low-fat milk or soy milk and a serving of fruit. Blend with water or ice to desired consistency. If you are feeling daring, add a cup of kale leaves (stems removed) or baby spinach leaves. I promise you won’t taste these greens, but they are filled with antioxidants, which do wonders for recovery. Keep your custom shake cold in a Thermos or in a water bottle placed in a lunch bag with an ice pack. (See Protein Shake or Chocolate Milk: Which Is Better Post-Workout?)
Whenever possible, get your nutrition from real food instead of supplements. However, once in awhile, a shelf-stable mix or powder is easier. Know that among the dozens of shakes on the market, many lack the proper nutritional make-up to qualify as a great recovery drink. Here are a few good options:
- Ready-to-drink Carnation Instant Breakfast
- Hammer Recoverite
- Rockin’ Refuel Intense Recovery
- 1/2 cup powder mix of Shaklee Physique Recovery
- Gatorade Series 3 protein recovery shake
Do not use a protein powder by itself, as it does not contain the proper proportion of carbohydrate and protein for recovery and muscle building.