The Real Deal About Post-Workout Protein

By: Ivey Smith ’15, University Health Center, Dietetic Student Volunteer
Chocolate milk is an ideal source of post-workout protein.

Chocolate milk is an ideal source of post-workout protein.

“Muscle” sells. We see it in the media and on the shelves of grocery stores, Walmarts, GNCs, and in our local gyms, day in and day out. Images of Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing his giant biceps on the tub of Arnold Iron Whey appeals to our desire for gains, and titles like Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard and Muscle Pharm Combat Powder practically send us running for the cash register with our shopping carts piled high with promising powders!

When it comes to choosing a post-workout meal, snack, or beverage, we are bombarded with options, so it is important to be informed.

Despite the alluring brand names and labels, there is an important fact to consider if you choose a supplement or powder as a protein source over food; the FDA does not regulate protein powders and supplements, or vitamins, for that matter, the same way it does pharmaceuticals.

When you purchase a powder or supplement, you are taking the word of the company that it is safe and that it actually contains the ingredients listed on the label, but there is no guarantee!

The FDA “is responsible for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches the market”; key word being “after”, that is, after an unsuspecting consumer is harmed by it.

But let’s take a step back for a moment, what about real food?

What happened to drinking actual milk in order to get the proteins casein and whey, for example? Jane Jacubczak, the registered dietician here at the University of Maryland, used to keep a refrigerator stocked with chocolate milk post practice for the Washington professional football team during her time as their dietician. Each day that refrigerator was completely emptied of chocolate milk – it was the football players’ preferred post workout drink! Why, you ask?

Chocolate milk can be made to have the ideal 1:4 or 1:3 ratio of protein to carbohydrates your muscles need to recover post workout. While protein is key in the muscle reparation process, carbs are also necessary to replenish energy spent during the workout. Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source. They are protein sparing, meaning by consuming enough carbs, your body will not have to break protein down for energy and all of it can go towards building stronger muscles.

So what if you don’t like dairy or are lactose intolerant? Do not be discouraged; chocolate milk is just one of many post work out meals that can refuel your body and rebuild your muscles. Some other examples include:

  • 2 oz grilled chicken (18g protein), one 10” whole grain tortilla wrap (35g carbs), add shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers (vegetables of your choice) and a dressing (Italian, low-fat ranch etc.) to be paired with a cup of 100% fruit juice to reach a ratio of about 18:70 grams of protein to carbs.
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter (8g protein, 6g carbs), one banana (1g protein, 27g carbs), 1/3c oatmeal (4g protein, 19g carbs), throw all of this into a blender with a splash of almond mild to get a ratio of 13:52 grams of protein to carbs.

In addition, you could choose a dried fruit and nut mixture (a calorie dense option), hummus and peppers or pita, tuna salad on whole grain crackers, or an omelet chocked full of veggies and topped with cheese.

By choosing food over a supplement post-workout, not only is your dietary safety guaranteed to a higher degree, but you are also taking advantage of the plethora of other nutrients the food provides.

More nutrients than just protein go into building muscle, such as calcium, iron, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and many trace minerals. We need to maintain a balanced diet and attain good health status in order for our bodies to preform properly both during and after a workout.

It may seem like a lot of work, but don’t let the hours you spend at the gym on a regular basis go to waste!

Fuel your body with the real-deal FOOD, and get the real-deal RESULTS!

For more information on how to build a balanced diet or to achieve your goals in gains, schedule a free diet analysis appointment today.

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