The Right Protein for Optimal Recovery

It’s well known that protein helps maintain and repair lean muscle tissue. Protein type and timing are important to take advantage of this muscle building benefit. While there are many types of protein powders invading store shelves, the best protein recovery drink may be found at home.

Past research has identified a post-workout “30-minute window” in which the body is very receptive to using protein and nutrients consumed to maximize recovery and lean muscle gains. This 30-minute window is an ideal time to consume a meal or drink containing a balance of carbohydrate and protein.  The best post-workout snack should contain 4-grams carbohydrate for every 1-gram protein

Snacks for Post workout Recovery (using the 4:1 ratio)

  • 8 oz non-fat chocolate milk  (26:8)
  • 6 oz non-fat fruit on the bottom yogurt (28:6)
  • 1 mozzarella string cheese, 5 whole grain crackers, 10 grapes (26:9)
  • 1 cup Cheerios, and 1/2 cup non-fat milk (15:5)
  • 1/4 cup hummus, and 1/2 cup carrots (35:9)
  • 1 slice whole grain bread, 1 oz turkey, and 1 cup apple juice (35:9)

Prefer Protein Drinks? Non-fat chocolate milk continues to be one of the best recovery drinks, let’s consider why. The best variety of protein powders include Casein, Whey, or a blend of the two; which are more effective than Soy or Egg proteins. Casein and Whey proteins are found in milk and dairy products. A glass of milk contains 80% casein and 20% whey proteins. If you have ever seen milk curdle, the chunky portion is the “slow acting” casein protein and the liquid portion is the “fast acting” whey protein. Low-fat milk as a post-exercise resistance training meal has been associated with a greater reduction in overall body fat, increased muscle growth and greater muscle mass maintenance than soy-based proteins (3,9). Research shows that low-fat dairy is more effective at protein
synthesis and replenishing net muscle protein balance than high-fat dairy (6).

In conclusion: Capitalize on your workout. You put in the training time, now use the 30-minute recovery window to your advantage. Consume a post-workout 4:1 ratio (carbohydrate to protein) balanced snack or drink. Opt for a real food snack or non-fat milk product for the best recovery benefit. If weight control is also part of your goal; Eat “or chew” most of your calories since liquid calories often don’t register a feeling of fullness. If the need for convenience gets the best of you, consider carrying a blended Casein/Whey protein powder and apple in your gym bag for your on-the-go recovery needs.

Wein, Deborah.”Whey Protein vs. Casein Protein and Optimal Recovery.”
NSCA Performance Training Journal. Aug – Sept 2011.
3. Hartman, JW, Tang, JE, Wilkinson, SB, Tarnopolsky, MA, Lawrence, RL, Fullerton,
AV, and Phillips, SM. Consumption of fat-free fl uid milk after resistance
exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption
of soy or carbohydrates in young, novice, male weightlifters. American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition 86: 373 – 381, 2007.
6. Roy, BD. Milk the new sports drink? A review. Journal of International Society
of Sports Nutrition 5(15): 2008.
9. Wilkinson, S, Tarnopolsky, MA, MacDonald, MJ, MacDonald, JR, Armstrong,
D, and Phillips, SM. Consumption of fl uid skim milk promotes
greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than consumption
of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition 85(4): 1031 – 1040, 2007.