Last Update: 9/2
As I am wont to do, I was reading about nutrition in an effort to procrastinate on… well, everything, but one of those things was actually working out. This effort was successful, even though it does motivate me to actually work out just so I can apply what I’ve learned.
In this case, I’ve determined best protein shakes to take post-workout,1 which isn’t as simple as you might think. The basic answer is whey, because it’s absorbed the quickest.2 When you finish your workout, your body can use protein right away to optimize recovery. But whey is still a vague answer, since there are so many different types and brands.
It turns out the best form of whey is called whey protein isolate (WPI), which is better than the concentrate. Anything that says “blend” is suspect. Not bad, per se, but not optimal. After that, you want to make sure that the protein is undenatured, which is kinda like saying it hasn’t been damaged during the collection process. If you see that the protein is manufactured via ion-exchange, the protein is denatured. Technically, you get more protein per scoop this way, but it’s less effective protein. Ironically, you’ll find several companies bragging that they use 100% ion-exchange WPI. What you’re looking for is some form of low temperature filtration process. You might see cross flow micro-filtration (CFM) specifically.
After that, I look for little to no soy, since soy inhibits testosterone production and can lower sperm count. I also want as little sugar and fat as possible. Note that you do want carbs post workout, so the protein is used for building muscles and not replenishing your blood sugars. And fats are important for generating testosterone. But I want control over what types of carbs and fats I eat.
Of course, it should also taste good, but that’s subjective. Some taste good in milk, but bad in water, but others are good all around. Using skim milk isn’t bad, but can double the calories. I suggest you start out with a small container, or find a place with a money-back satisfaction guarantee. I think most nutrition shops offer this, but ask. Once you find something you like, look for a bulk discount online.
Here is the list I came up with based on label information, supplemented with forum opinions. It’s not comprehensive, but I think I have most of the quality brands. There may be other products from the same brands that use the same protein, but double check.
All The Whey – Whey Protein Isolate
This is my preferred choice. I tried vanilla with the Micellar Casein,3 and it has a very light taste. Almost too light. When I added frozen berries, I needed to add a tablespoon of raspberry syrup. Cupcake Batter is sweet enough so that no syrup was necessary. I’ll add frozen blueberries and have a blueberry muffin smoothie, or frozen strawberries and make it strawberry shortcake. Another great flavor is Cinnamon Bun. This tastes more like cinnamon coffee cake, but I love that, too. One of my favorite new post workout shakes is cinnamon bun whey, skim milk, 1/2 an apple (cut up and frozen), and a packet of instant, steel cut oatmeal with flax. It’s like drinking an cinnamon apple cake! But it’s also the best flavor to drink with just skim milk. And I’ve heard some people add it to their hot oatmeal, which I’ll have to try.
Allmax Nutrition – IsoFlex I picked this up in Chocolate. Later, I noticed it the label said “with real chocolate chips” and thought, wouldn’t they just sink to the bottom? They sink to the bottom. I guess it’s good if you’re throwing it in the blender with ice, otherwise you just eat them at the end, which does leave a better taste in your mouth. Yes, it does mix in water, but it doesn’t taste that great that way. I had to either use skim milk, or use water but add a splash of fat-free half and half. So far, Muscle Milk is the only thing that tastes decent in water, but it also has a lot of fat and sugar.
4ever Fit – Whey Protein Isolate In fruit flavors.
4ever Fit – 4ever Whey In traditional shake flavors (chocolate/vanilla).
Syntrax – Nectar/Sweets Nectars are fruit flavors, Sweets are dessert flavored. Fuzzy Navel, Roadside Lemonade, and Green Apple seem to be favorites.
VPX – Zero Carb Protein
Universal – Ultra Iso Whey
Bioplex – Pure WPI
Pure Nutrition – Whey Protein Isolate Not the same as above, and uses a natural sweetener I’ve never heard of.
Applied Delivery Systems – Lean Mass Builder
Ultimate Nutrition products look good on paper, but I’ve read a few bad reviews regarding taste.
Here are my references:
The Whey It Is: The Truth About Whey Protein by Will Brink
Soy health risks for men at Wikipedia
- Or other athletic activity, preferably within 30 minutes. [↩]
- There might be some super-protein out there that’s better, but I couldn’t find any overwhelming evidence pointing to anything specific. The data backing whey, however, is pretty extensive. [↩]
- I picked up casein mainly to curb hunger, but then I read that whey is better for that. Makes sense, since it’s digested faster. [↩]
4 thoughts on “The Best Post-Workout Protein Shakes”
I eat a tub of cottage cheese every weekday. Does that count?
Although Little Miss Muffet looks like a slob, so I guess not.
I like Syntha-6 by BSN. It tastes pretty good and my trainer swears by it.
Thanks for the feedback. Syntha-6 is very popular, and if it’s working for you that’s great, stick with it.
However, I left it off this list because it’s a protein blend and whey protein isolate accounts for only 1 of it’s 6 forms of protein (although it does claim to use a filtering process for the whey).
Moreover, it bills itself as an AM/PM supplement, meaning you take it as soon as you wake up and before you go to bed, since it is slowly digested over about 7 hours. Those are typically meant to fight catabolism during/after sleep.
For AM/PM uses, or to just get more protein in my diet, micellar casein seems to have the best data behind it. That’s what I’m using for breakfast and, only if I’m hungry, an evening snack. Specifically, I’m using All The Whey’s Vanilla Micellar Casein. It has no fat/sugar and a very light, almost neutral flavor, making easy to mix with other stuff in smoothies. In the future, I’ll write more about this and include some recipes.
Once again, I’m not saying other things don’t work, I’m just going with the supplements that have the most hard data behind them. Unfortunately, that narrows down the field significantly.
Iagree, to avoid soy. Thanks for the article I need to buy a new 4lb tube today.
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