There is nothing worse than feeling so sore after a training session that you can barely move your limbs without wincing for the next 5 days.  Sometimes feeling a little sore can leave you with a sense of accomplishment, however, you should not feel so sore that it hinders your workouts for the rest of the week!

Sound familiar? Well, then it’s time to start implementing a post-workout shake for recovery.

In today’s article, I am going to review the importance of recovery nutrition and how you can create or purchase a post workout shake that works best for you.

Why is Recovery Nutrition so Important?

Recovery nutrition is one of the single most important habits you can get yourself accustomed to as an athlete. Hands down.  Let’s dive into why this is so critical.

Every time you enter the gym or step onto the field, court, track, pool etc. you want to be able to train even harder than the last session, right? While we all wish for this, many of us do not take the necessary nutrition-related steps to get there.

After a tough workout, your body is tired. This is typically a result of dehydration, muscle breakdown and the simple fact that your body has plowed through all of its fuel reserves. Whether you realize it or not, your body is now in a state of stress. If you are not replenishing the reserves, how can you ever maximize your performance potential?

How to Start with Post Workout Recovery

Our bodies utilize carbohydrate as the primary source of energy for brain and body fuel. Science tells us that our body is able to store quite a bit of this carbohydrate to be used as fuel reserves. Stored carbohydrate is known as glycogen. Our body taps into our glycogen storage when we have been exercising for an extended period of time. If we do not take in the proper nutrients immediately post exercise to replenish this depleted storage tank, we may never see the gains that our body is capable of achieving.

Recovery nutrition is also critical for the repair and rebuilding of muscle post exercise. Our muscles experience a breakdown as we train. Proper nutrition, particularly by means of protein, helps to repair this muscle breakdown. Adequate consumption of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) post workout is crucial. Amino acids signal our muscle building pathways to begin the process of muscle protein synthesis. This is the process in which our body builds muscle.

While a protein and carbohydrate-rich meal or snack immediately post-exercise is great, liquid form of these macronutrients is digested and absorbed more efficiently than solid food. This is why our article today will emphasize the importance of a post workout shake.

When is the Best Time to Have my Recovery Concoction?

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 to the curb 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.

What Should go Into my Shake?

Ideally, the correct ratio of carbohydrate to protein will help an athlete recover to the best of their ability. This ratio will depend upon your sport and the intensity of your training session. Endurance athletes, or those training for 2+ consecutive hours would have a higher carbohydrate to protein ratio. I explain this in further detail in our post about essential post workout shake ingredients.

Although protein for a post workout shake can come from numerous sources of whole food such as tofu, chia, flax, and nut butters, you may find that a high-quality powdered protein is the most convenient. We recommend using grass-fed protein powders for optimal results.

As for carbohydrate, one of your best options will be fruit. Although 100% fruit juice is not ideal, it can certainly be used in moderation after a workout as a quick source of carbohydrate. You can also consider incorporating organic cow’s milk or yogurt as these foods contain naturally occurring carbohydrate.

Remember, carbohydrate stimulates insulin (a hormone that regulates glucose in the blood) to unlock the “door” to your cells to allow the protein to enter in the first place! Athletes who consume an excessive amount of protein (35+ grams or more in one shake) with very minimal carbohydrate intake may have trouble recovering.

But I Don’t Feel Well After Consuming Dairy

Dairy intolerance in more common than you might think. Contrary to popular belief, lactose is usually not the issue. Athletes can experience negative side effects from whey and or casein, not just lactose! Lactose is the sugar found in milk and whey and casein are two different proteins found in milk.

If you notice a stomach ache, excess mucous production/throat clearing, bloating, constipation, diarrhea after you drink cow’s milk, it might be time to try another form of protein for recovery. After all, the LAST thing an athlete needs is extra inflammation after practice.

There are many blends of plant protein on the market today that work well for those who are intolerant of dairy. Pea, rice, hemp, and chia, are among the most popular. Soy protein is another option because it is a complete protein. However, soy can be highly allergenic for some individuals, especially after it has been chemically treated and then heavily processed during production. This is why I do not typically jump to soy protein as my second choice for a post workout shake.

The plant-based fan favorite among all my athletes is Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant Based Protein Powder. This powder tastes great when blended into a shake and also when stirred into oatmeal.  Best of all, it is NSF Certified for Sport which means it has been tested for any banned substances athletes may get tested for. For those of you who do not have to be as concerned about certification and are looking for other options, Orgain and Vega make great plant-based protein powders as well.

What if I Don’t Have a Blender?

No blender? Not a problem! There are a handful of portable protein beverages on the market that is great for a convenient post workout recovery option. The best part? None of these beverages require refrigeration! Perfect for those constantly on the go. Here are my top 3 picks for portability:

CheriBundi Rebuild

The Rebuild version of Cherribundi is great for muscle recovery and fighting inflammation. There is a plethora of research suggesting tart cherry’s ability to fight inflammation and the power of whey when it comes to rebuilding and repairing muscle. You experience the best of both worlds as they come together in this portable beverage.

Orgain 21g Organic Plant Based Protein Shake

The Orgain portable shake is perfect for the plant-based or dairy intolerant athlete. While they do offer a grass-fed whey version, this version is entirely plant based and does not contain artificial ingredients. While it certainly tastes best cold, you do not have to worry about refrigeration until opening.

BiPro Protein Water

BIPro Protein Water is excellent for the athlete who does not care for thick or milky textures after a hard workout. This beverage contains whey protein and is sweetened with Stevia. One important fact to keep in mind: this beverage does NOT contain carbohydrate. Therefore, it would be best to pair BiPro Protein Water with a carbohydrate-rich snack such as fruit when it comes to muscle recovery.

I Don’t Have Time or Stomach Space for a Shake and a Meal. Can I Combine the Two?

Always on the go? Hate cooking? Do you become full very easily? Perhaps all of the above? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider turning your post workout shake into a meal.
The biggest difference is that you will be adding good quality plant-based fat and a handful or two of greens to the shake to make it a balanced meal in a glass. As always, consult your dietitian in order to determine what is best for you. However, most of us can get by with this general template:

Post Workout Shake for Meal & Recovery

15-20g protein scoop of your favorite protein powder 8 oz liquid (preferably some form of organic milk or milk alternative) 1.5 TBSP plant-based fat such as avocado or a nut butter 3/4 cup frozen fruit 2 handfuls of greens and 8 oz liquid
Course Drinks, Snack
Cuisine American
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 athlete
Calories 450 kcal
Author Kylene Bogden


  • 15-20 g protein scoop of your favorite protein powder
  • 8 oz liquid preferably some form of organic milk or milk alternative
  • 1.5 TBSP plant-based fat such as avocado or a nut butter
  • 3/4 cup frozen fruit
  • 2 handfulls handfuls of greens


  1. Add to your choice of blender for ~1-2 minutes, then enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
Post Workout Shake for Meal & Recovery
Amount Per Serving
Calories 450
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

In summary, post workout recovery nutrition is critical for optimizing performance. Whether it be a perfectly crafted post workout shake or a whole food based meal or snack (check out our Sweet Swaps post for healthy swaps for junk food), do not deprive your body of replenishment. Just remember, you can hire the best coaches in the world, purchase the most intricate training equipment on the planet and push your body to the max day in and day out, BUT if you do not have a sound nutrition practice in place, you will never reach your ultimate potential.