A post-workout protein shake is the gold standard of recovery nutrition in the fitness community. What better way to jumpstart the muscle rebuilding and repair process than with fast-acting whey protein and rapidly digesting carbohydrates?

Well, if your goal is to build muscle, you can't go wrong with a shake. But if your goal is fat loss, you absolutely can. Stop making these three post-workout nutrition mistakes to better adhere to your diet!

Mistake No. 1: You're Overdosing on Sugar

The post-workout window has been marketed as the best time to consume a lot of sugar because the fast-digesting carbs will be delivered directly to your muscles. There's no better time for this rapid delivery than after exercise. Your muscles will act like a sponge, soaking up any and all nutrients thrown their way.

But that doesn't mean you should be dumping fruit juice and Nutella into your post-workout smoothie! Taking a high-sugar approach after your workout can have two major drawbacks. For starters, the calories add up, and they add up fast. Before you know it, your Nutella and banana protein smoothie can approach 1,000 calories. For someone dieting on 1,800 calories per day…well, you get the picture.

Furthermore, high-sugar fare isn't satiating. The quick-digesting nature of your ingredients helps replenish carbohydrate stores, but it doesn’t leave you feeling full for very long. So you’ve consumed a large percentage of your daily calories, and you’ll be hungry again soon enough.

This is a recipe for dietary disaster.

Mistake No. 2: Your Shake is Your Biggest Meal of the Day

Many lifters eat their biggest meal of the day after they train. If that meal is a shake, this means dumping half of the kitchen pantry into your blender after a workout. However, when you diet, this may work against you, especially if you work out first thing in the morning or late in the evening.

The result is a highly skewed distribution of calories, one that leaves you ravenous and fatigued for a large portion of the day.

The Fix: Stop Thinking You Need a Post-Workout Shake

Here’s the deal: You don't need a shake post-workout. You can still recover, make gains, and get stronger by opting for whole foods rather than a fast-digesting liquid following your last set. Plus, this choice will keep hunger in check for the hours to come. Whole foods are generally more satiating than liquids. That's because the act of chewing stimulates satiety signals to be sent to your brain, and liquids digest more quickly than solid foods.[1]

Selecting a whole food recovery meal also will give you the opportunity to consume high-fiber foods. Fiber significantly slows down digestion, which helps to promote fullness for the many hours to come. Even if you throw oats and fruits into your blender, the powerful blade will completely disintegrate the fibrous starches, making the starch less starchy.   

Consider a plate of lean protein, healthy carbohydrates, and ample vegetables. And, of course, drink plenty of fluids, too. This combination will promote recovery and fullness. Furthermore, to quell hunger pains throughout the day, strive for a more even distribution of calories, rather than saving them for your post-workout meal.

Signature Pre and Post Stack
Signature Pre and Post Stack
Maximize your workouts with this energy and recovery stack!
  1. Wijlens, A. G., Erkner, A., Alexander, E., Mars, M., Smeets, P. A., & Graaf, C. (2012). Effects of oral and gastric stimulation on appetite and energy intakeObesity20(11), 2226-2232.

About the Author

Paul Salter, MS, RD

Paul Salter, MS, RD

Paul Salter, MS, RD, CSCS, received his BS in dietetics from the University of Maryland and his MS in exercise and nutrition science from the University of Tampa.

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