So now that you have a deeper understanding of the importance of a post workout recovery shake, it’s time to actually teach you how to create the perfect shake! If you often find yourself mixing a poor quality protein powder with water or skipping your recovery shake altogether, it’s ok, we’ve all been there at one point or another. However, today is a new day and it’s time to up your recovery game.

In today’s article, you will learn the essential post workout shake ingredients necessary for recovery and how to calculate individual nutrient needs to match your performance goals. For those of you following specific elimination protocols such as Ketogenic or Paleo, we will also be discussing recovery shakes that fit into your specific plan.

How Do I Calculate Macronutrients Specifically to Me?

Perhaps you are already consuming a recovery shake each day after a tough workout. That’s great! BUT what are you throwing inside that blender? (Note on blenders: If you would like to upgrade from the traditional blender bottle, check out a great review of blenders here.  Our top pick is the “Pro” version of the Nutribullet. Its a fraction of the price of a Vitamix, has enough power to dice and mix various things for food prep, and can mix things right in the cup AKA less prep or clean up time and less waste as you transfer your shake from the blender container to your cup.  Time + money saved=  #winning)

Have you ever actually calculated your macronutrients? Have you then taken that calculation a step further to figure out which foods in which portions are needed to meet those macro goals? For most athletes, the answer is no. Let’s review how to calculate the perfect post workout shake for you.

Start with Calculating Protein Needs

Is it possible to consume too much protein? Yes, especially when a major dose is consumed at one time. The old school myth is that high intake amounts of protein can be harmful to your kidney function. However, research has proven this to be untrue. In fact, when an athlete has healthy kidneys, he or she can typically exceed the high end of 2.0 g protein per kg of body weight and still be completely fine.  You can read more about ideal protein dosage in your daily diet in our post on the recommended protein intake for athletes.

The major issue with excess protein is actually the fact that your body can’t utilize it and the “overflow” if you will, will turn into sugar and then ultimately, body fat.

When calculating the protein in your recovery shake, start with your weight in lbs, divide by 2.2 to obtain kilograms (kg). Take your weight in kg and multiply that number by 0.3. You should land somewhere around 15-30g protein. Some of you will fall slightly under and others slightly over but as long as you are in the ballpark, you are good to go.

Now, memorize this number because it is how you will figure out how much protein to scoop out of your tub or read off your label of tofu, nuts etc. that you are blending into your shake. Be careful because the label may suggest two scoops and you may need 1/2 of one. It may suggest one scoop for a serving and you may need two. Got it?

Calculating Carbohydrate (CHO) Requirements

While there are a lot of opinions and unique diets out there, we can say with confidence most athletes do tend to perform best when having CHO regularly in their diet. To calculate your needs, start by taking your weight in pounds again and divide by 2.2 to obtain kg. Multiply your weight in kg by 1.0. This will give you the total amount of CHO that should be in your recovery shake. For most of you, this will fall between 30-90 grams.

Let’s take this one step further.

Depending on your sport, we may need to tweak your grams of carbohydrate. Protein will almost always stay the same, however, carbohydrate intake will change a bit based on duration and intensity.

Athletes participating in sports that are not as rigorous will aim for a 2:1 protein to CHO ratio. Moderate intensity is closer to a 3:1 ratio and ultra-endurance athletes will be a 4:1 protein to CHO ratio.

So, if I am an ultra-endurance racer and I calculated 15g protein for my recovery shake, then 15x 4=60g CHO will be added to my shake.

If I am a soccer, hockey, cross country etc. athlete, I would take that 15g x3 = 45g CHO in my recovery shake.

If I finished a light practice, lift, or a training session that did not require much cardio or if I play a lower intensity sport such as golf, I would multiply 15x 2= 30g CHO in my recovery shake.

It is best to read the nutrition facts label on the container of your liquid, the package of your fruit, or whatever it is that you are adding to you shake in order to meet your specific post-workout carbohydrate demands. Remember that your CHO needs will come primarily from fruit, dairy, and starch (potatoes, rice, couscous, etc.).

Also, don’t be afraid to get creative! While adding juice may be a really easy way to reach your CHO goal, it’s not ideal. Your immune system loves seeing a variety of fruits and veggies in your shake. Think outside the box. For example, cooked sweet potato or canned pumpkin makes for an amazing CHO option in a shake when combined with a vanilla protein powder a few sprinkles of cinnamon. If you would like to continue to learn more about the recommended carbohydrate intake for athletes to learn about what you should have on a daily basis, you can read more on this topic here as well.

Posts related to our Essential Post Workout Shake Ingreidents Post:

Bonus Round

Want to step up your shake game even further? The perfect post workout shake should always include some form of antioxidant-rich food. Antioxidants are famous for their ability to tackle inflammation in our body. When our body is inflamed, we experience post-workout soreness. Extreme soreness can hinder our workout the next day. Therefore, adding antioxidant-rich foods – even if only a 1/2 cup- such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and tart cherries can make a world of difference in your recovery. Ideally, you would add antioxidant-rich fruits to your shake in order to reach your CHO goal.

Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that not every single workout requires a recovery shake. A very light cross training day or training day that is not intense and lasts less than 45 minutes usually does not require the need for a recovery shake. However, if you did not eat very much that day and you are getting ready to go to bed under-fueled, that is when  I would recommend having a shake regardless.

What’s All the Buzz About BCAA’s?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) known as leucine, isoleucine, and valine are known for their ability to generate muscle protein synthesis. Research tells us that these three musketeers can be more potent when it comes to muscle building than ingesting basic protein by itself.

Why do you ask? Well, the protein found in products such as whey protein powder are peptide bound to other amino acids. This means that it would be a more difficult process to raise BCAA levels in the body.

Pure BCAAs in supplement form does not require effort to digest and are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. Since BCAAs are able to bypass the liver and head directly to your bloodstream, they can be used very quickly as fuel during an intense workout.

Can you get BCAA’s from protein-rich food sources such as eggs and chicken? Of course, and you should! But the difference is that they cannot be extracted and used immediately when they are in the form of food vs. supplement.BCAA Fun Facts:

  • Just a few grams of pure BCAA supplementation can actually raise the plasma level of BCAA faster than 30g of whey protein.
  • Leucine and isoleucine can be converted to glucose to provide your body with more energy
  • 5-7g BCAA’s pre or during a workout is ideal for most individuals
  • Currently, one of the most pure and effective brands of BCAA’s on the market, and one I recommend most often to our athletes is made by Klean Athlete called Klean BCAA + Peak ATP

Are BCAAs Right for Me?

If your diet is well balanced and you feel that you are able to train your hardest each day without fatigue and soreness, I would not worry about adding BCAA’s to your routine.

However, BCAA’s can be very beneficial for the following individuals:

  • Those who struggle to maintain lean muscle mass
  • Those who struggle to gain lean muscle mass
  • Those who are following a calorie restricted diet (think wrestlers, MMA fighters etc.)
  • Those who continually feel sore and overworked despite consuming a balanced recovery shake each day
  • Those who feel fatigued halfway through a workout despite fueling properly throughout the day

When is the Best Time to Have My Shake?

I realize we’ve already discussed timing in previous posts but for those of you who are new to the post-workout shake, this bears repeating!

The vast majority of research suggests that the best time to consume a recovery shake is within a 15-60 min window immediately post training or competition.

After a workout, your cells are pretty riled up. For those of you old enough to remember Pacman, think of what that looked like. Remember the little yellow ghost that ran around the screen frantically looking for dots to eat? Your cells are the exact same way, frantically looking for fuel immediately after they have been beaten up from your physical exertion. If they do not receive fuel in time, they remain damaged, thus leading to soreness, fatigue and pain in the days to follow.

Long story short, if you do not replenish fast enough with quality nutrition, you decrease muscle protein synthesis and muscle glycogen storage = your body will begin to run on fumes so to speak. And how can you ever possibly perform your best running on fumes?? Exactly! You can’t.

What if I’m Trying to Make a Smoothie for Between Workouts?

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But what if I am following a specific dietary approach where I can’t eat certain foods such as dairy, soy, certain fruits etc.?

In today’s age, there is a good chance you are an athlete who is very in tune with your body and you have likely removed a certain food or food group after discovering that it caused you undesirable symptoms. So, what happens to your recovery shake if you are following a specific dietary approach such as Ketogenic, Paleo, Low FODMAP, or Vegan? Hopefully, you have not been skipping your post-workout fuel all together as a result of confusion. However, if that sounds familiar, fear not. We have you covered! Check out our post The Ultimate Guide for Athletes with Food Allergies where I review how to design your recovery shake and meals based on your specific dietary needs.

What does your perfect post workout shake look like? Have you noticed that you feel better and can train harder the next day? Please share your comments below!