The Best Protein Shakes for Muscle Recovery After Your Workout
If you’re looking to build muscle, protein shakes can help your muscles recover faster so you can work out more often and see better results. Read on to learn why protein is important after a workout and discover the best protein powders to mix up a muscle-building shake.
Why Your Muscles Need Protein After Exercise
When you strength train with weights or bodyweight exercises, you’re breaking down muscle fibers. This muscle damage is a good thing because it kickstarts muscle growth. But to rebuild stronger, bigger muscles, you need to give your body the right nutrients for recovery.
Consuming protein after your workout is crucial. Protein provides amino acids that are the building blocks your muscles need to repair and grow. Getting plenty of high-quality protein within an hour or two after exercise helps speed up the muscle repair and growth processes.
If you don’t get enough protein in your after-workout meal or snack, your muscles can’t fully recover. Over time, this can limit your strength and muscle mass gains.
What to Look for in a Good Post-Workout Protein Shake
There are many protein powder supplements on the market, but not all are created equal when it comes to muscle recovery. Here’s what to look for when choosing the best protein shakes for after your workouts:
High protein content – Aim for at least 20-30 grams of protein per serving. Whey and casein proteins tend to provide more protein ounce-for-ounce than plant-based options.
Leucine – This branched-chain amino acid plays a big role in building muscle. Look for at least 2-3 grams of leucine per serving.
Quickly digested – Fast-digesting proteins like whey get amino acids to your muscles more rapidly to kickstart repair.
Mixes well – You want a powder that blends smoothly into water or milk without clumping.
Good taste – Find a flavor you enjoy so you’ll look forward to your shake!
Below are some top protein powders that check the right boxes for muscle recovery.
The 7 Best Protein Shakes for Post-Workout
With 24 grams of rapidly digesting whey protein from each scoop and over 4 grams of leucine, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard ticks all the boxes for muscle recovery. It mixes extremely well without clumping and comes in delicious naturally flavored options like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
Dymatize ISO100 is a hydrolyzed whey protein isolate, meaning it breaks down very quickly for faster muscle absorption. Each serving packs 25 grams of protein with 5.5 grams of leucine to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It has a very smooth, easy-to-mix texture.
Isopure Zero Carb contains 100% whey protein isolate, so it’s fast-digesting while packing a lot of muscle-building potential per scoop. A serving has 25 grams of protein and 5 grams of added leucine. With only trace carbs, this low-calorie shake won’t weigh you down.
Cellucor COR-Performance features 25 grams of whey protein including concentrated whey isolates and hydrolysates that digest at different rates to prolong amino acid delivery. Plus over 6 grams of leucine and other amino acids to promote muscle growth. The molten chocolate flavor tastes indulgent.
For a clean protein from pasture-raised dairy cows without hormones or additives, try transparent Labs whey isolate. A serving provides 28 grams of protein with 6 grams of leucine to support swift muscle recovery. And it has exceptional mixability.
BiPro is an exceptionally pure whey protein isolate containing all naturally occurring amino acids plus added leucine and glutamine to replenish depleted muscle fuel stores after your workout. Each scoop packs 23 grams of fast-digesting, 100% cold-filtered whey protein.
Ascent Native Fuel boasts 25 grams of muscle-repairing whey protein from grass-fed Wisconsin dairy cows in each serving. With zero added junk and minimal processing for purity, this all-natural shake supports muscle growth. And it has a smooth, creamy texture and taste.
How to Use Protein Shakes for Optimal Muscle Growth
Here’s your step-by-step guide to making the most of your protein shakes for faster workout recovery:
Choose one of the whey protein powders from our top seven shakes list to ensure you get at least 20 grams of high-quality protein with extra leucine per serving.
Mix your protein powder with water or milk within an hour of finishing your strength training workout for optimal timing of nutrients to fatigued muscles.
For enhanced recovery, add fresh or frozen fruit for antioxidants and carbohydrates to replenish energy stores. Greek yogurt or nut butters also provide protein, healthy fats and nutrients.
Drink your muscle-building shake first, then follow up with a balanced whole food meal about an hour later for sustained energy and muscle repair while avoiding overeating junk foods due to post-workout hunger.
On non-workout days, enjoy a protein shake as a snack or part of a meal to help maintain and build muscle mass over time.
The right protein shake can make or break your muscle-building results. Whether you choose an all-natural whey protein from grass-fed cows or a top-rated commercial blend, consuming a fast-digesting shake with adequate protein and leucine shortly after strength training is key. This will supply your worked muscles with the raw materials to repair damage and get bigger and stronger over time.